Mr and Mrs Birling do not care about their involvement in the death of Eva smith. They do not care about responsibility. How far do you agree that responsibility is the major theme in the play? JB priestly in ‘An inspector calls’ provides a play that will not only entertain but a play that will deliver a message of the injustice in society, class, and social responsibility. I intend to explore how Priestly conveys these impacting themes throughout the play and how he uses the main characters to represent his powerful views about responsibility.
Responsibility is the central theme in the play, and is presented throughout the duration of the play. At the beginning of the play Mr Birling gives a speech about his interpretation of responsibility, “A man has to make his own way, look after himself and mind his own business. ” This contrasts greatly with the inspectors speech towards the end of the play. Birlings view is about individual responsibility where as the Inspectors view is all about collective responsibility and looking after the lower class.
Mr and Mrs Birling do not understand that they have taken part in killing Eva smith, they have no empathy for her and are incapable of change. After the inspector informs Mr Birling that Eva Smith has died an agonising death Mr Birling is incredibly insensitive towards the situation and is very flippant, “Yes, yes. Horrid business. ” Mr Birling is stubborn, and does not want to put his pride on hold to accept his responsibility, “Still, I can’t accept any responsibility. Through the character of Mr Birling Priestly conveys that the upper class have a narrow view of what it means to be responsible, all Birling thinks it means to be responsible to make a success of his business.
Mrs Birling is no more mature towards responsibility than Mr Birling, “Simply because I have done nothing wrong. ” Mrs Birling has no remorse and does not feel like she had any part to play in killing Eva. The inspector attempts to make them accept their social responsibility, “One Eva Smith has gone but there are millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths left with us. Priestly portrays that the characters of Birling, Mrs Birling and Gerald do not want to accept their blame in killing Eva because they are too full of pride, and do not want to compromise their social standard to admit that they had a social responsibility to help the lower class. We see a glimmer of hope from the younger generation of Birlings and that they are capable of change.
Sheila and Eric come to accept their responsibility and feel empathy and remorse for Eva. “(Scornfully) That’s all. Sheila is staggered that her parents can dismiss Eva’s death so easily. Priestly conveys through Sheila that there is hope for the younger generation. “It doesn’t matter now of course – but was he really a police inspector? ” To Sheila and Eric it doesn’t matter if the inspector was a real police inspector or not, they have learnt their lesson, the inspector had an impact and made them change their views on responsibility. Sheila and Eric’s ability to change means Priestly can end the play with an element of hope.
The play of ‘an inspector calls’ is not solely about responsibility, it is a play where Priestly portrays his ideas and makes social comments about, class, equitable society and committing to your social responsibility. Priestly conveys his impacting ideas about the class system through the character of Mrs Birling, “Girls of that class. ” This conveys that Mrs Birling thinks that she is socially and morally superior. Emphasis on “that” shows that Mrs Birling acts like she is greater than the working class.
In the play Priestly presents the audience with a powerful social message about equitable society. Priestly conveys his views through the inspector, who becomes a voice for the lower class, “We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. ” The inspector is trying to present to the Birlings that they need to be part of an equitable society were the lower class are not treated with contempt and indifference but were they are treated with fairness and become part of a community.
Priestly presents throughout the novel that each of the characters has a social duty and responsibility. Birlings social responsibility was to give Eva the amount of wages she deserved after all he said she was, “a good worker. ” Instead of giving Eva what she pleaded for to keep her from starvation Birling ignored his social responsibility and kept her in poverty by turning her out of a job.
Priestly portrays through the character of the inspector that the upper class have a welfare to take care of the lower class, “Public men have responsibilities” The inspector points a finger of blame at Birling because of his failure to acknowledge that his social position entails a duty of responsibility towards the lower class. In my opinion responsibility is the main theme is the play, Priestly presents his ideas about how society should act through the theme of social and moral responsibility.