"An Inspector Calls" is a play created by one of the most popular English dramatists J. B. Priestley. It is set in 1912, Edwardian England, just before the war. The time was rather difficult for England; definitely, that was the reason for the author to depict that very epoch because the time Pristley lived in himself had some resemblance with 1912. While reading the book, one can see a period when there were many strikes, food shortages and great political tension.
Taking into account the fact that the play was written and published in 1945, just after the World War II, we can mention that the country was also in disarray. Priestley tries to show the difference between these two epochs very effectively. Depicting people on their way to socialism, the author shows attempt to rebuild the society.
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Priestley reveals it in a very bright way using two types of characters, vivid conflict of generations and desperate efforts of the Birlings to keep image of kind, prosperous and responsible people. Pristley observes the classical unities of time, place and actions in his structure. The place – the Birlings’ dining-room – is constant throughout; and the action and dialogue all contribute to the central theme of the play, with nothing extraneous to distract the audience’s attention. The style of the play seems at first glance to be that of the straightforward detective thriller but Pristley is a master of different stylistic devices which keep reader’s attention up to the end of the story.
All the characters in the play are rather typical, which shows that the author tried not to depict a personality but to show the problems in society of the whole epoch using one of the upper class families and its inner and outer relations. All the characters are different but the most interesting person in the play, to my mind, is Mrs. Birling. The first outstanding thing about her is her leadership in the family. The author describes her as quite tyrannical person: “…about fifty, a rather cold woman and her husband’s social superior”. Evidently, she is more hard-faced than Mr. Burling, very snobbish, conscious of and uses social position for her private purpose.
Mrs. Birling is a chairlady of the Brumiley women’s charity organization. Taking into consideration her features of character it sounds rather ironically. So, let’s find out the reasons why it is so, why Sybil can’t hold such post. First of all, charity organization is created for poor or destitute people who need help, material as well as moral. So there should work people who sympathize with such people, who like them and are ready to help them whenever they need it. For sure, it’s not about lady Birling. She disrespects and even hates poor people, fearlessly expressing her prejudices against working class women like Eva. Sybil accuses the girl of being immoral, dishonest and greedy. Moreover, she can be seen as a heartless person in some respects, especially in the way she receives the news about Eva Smith’s suicide. She dismisses the news, not able to see how the death of a lower class person could be of any interest to, or connected to the Birlings. Sybil seems to think that such people have different feelings to her own, that they are less human than she is. She sees Eva’s pleas as being evidence of ‘giving herself ridiculous airs’ and of ‘claiming elaborate fine feelings’ that are restricted to people of Sybil’s own social standing.
One more reason is that Mrs. Birling seems to be completely detached from the problems of her own family. She thinks that her son is still a little child though he had already become an alcoholic, she’s ignorant at her daughter’s troubles. So how can a woman so selfish, that doesn’t care about her own family, think about lower-class people?
Sybil is rather sly woman. When inspector stars asking her questions she hides behind words such as ‘truth’, ‘duty’ and ‘deserving’, she finds every his word ‘offensive’ and obviously doesn’t feel responsible for Eva’s death though actually she refused to help the girl when she had asked to. If to suppose that the chair lady would have been a kind woman there wouldn’t be any suicide. The matter is that the girl felt too miserable, she appeared in a world of cruelty and lack of understanding. Eva came to charity organization because it was her last way out. But Mrs. Birling humiliated her and it was the last straw for the girl. The woman told her that it’s the father of the child who is responsible. The reader is aware of the fact that Eric is the father of the child, but Eva couldn’t stand that she was used by a rich alcoholic.
The ending of the play makes everything clear: all the members of the family are guilty in Eva’s death. But most of the blame is on Sybil who using her influence persuaded the other members of her charitable group not to help Eva in order to avoid problems in her own family. Nonetheless Sybil Birling refuses to accept any part of the blame for Eva’s death, despite her actions, which contributed to its occurrence and is so sure of her beliefs that she states she is not at all ashamed. So we can see that even in the end Sybil didn’t learn to behave in a compassionate or caring way, her attitude towards lower class became even worse. That is why we can make a conclusion that Sybil Birling couldn’t be a chair lady of Brumiley women’s charity organization and should be removed from her position. —————————————————————————–
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