Themes Revision

Themes Revision

Themes Revision Objective: To identify and explore how the themes are presented within the play. Challenge: Relate to context. Starter: What are the main themes? Look at the images to help you. Themes In An Inspector Calls, the central theme is responsibility. Priestley is interested in peoples personal responsibility for our their actions and societys collective responsibility to society. The play explores the effect of class, age and sex on people's attitudes to responsibility, and shows how prejudice can prevent people from acting responsibly. In addition, the play also considers the following themes of morality and lies and deceit

Personal Responsibility Everyone in society is linked... The words responsible and responsibility are used by most characters in the play at some point. Each member of the family has a different attitude to responsibility. Make sure that you know how each of them felt about their responsibility in the case of Eva Smith. Social and Collective Responsibility The Inspector wanted each member of the family to share the responsibility of Eva's death: he tells them, "each of you helped to kill her." However, his final speech is aimed not only at the characters on stage, but at the audience too: One Eva Smith has gone - but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our

lives, and what we think and say and do. The Inspector is talking about a collective responsibility, everyone is society is linked, in the same way that the characters are linked to Eva Smith. Everyone is a part of "one body, the Inspector sees society as more important than individual interests. The views he is propounding are like those of Priestley who was a socialist. Remember at the time the ethos was based on the individualism ethos of laissez faire (leave alone), Priestley wanted the characters to consider a social conscience and to embrace a collective responsibility. Priestleys message He adds a clear warning about what could happen if, like some members of the family, we ignore our responsibility: And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, when they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. What would Priestley have wanted his audience to think of when the Inspector?

He warns the Birlings of the "fire and blood and anguish"? Priestley and a 1945 audience would have been reminded of the world war they had just lived through - the result of governments blindly pursuing 'national interest' at all costs. No doubt he was thinking too about the Russian revolution in which poor workers and peasants took over the state and exacted a bloody revenge against the aristocrats who had treated them so badly. Class Apart from Edna the maid, the cast of the play does not include any lower class characters. We see only the rich, upwardly mobile Birlings and the upper class Gerald Croft. Yet we learn a lot about the lower class as we hear of each stage in Eva's life and we see the attitude the Birlings had for them. Class

This table looks at the way the Birlings saw lower-class Eva when they came into contact with her, and the way that they see themselves within their own class. Character At the start of the play, To this character, this character was: Eva/ Daisy was... Mr. Birling

Sheila Gerald Eric Mrs Birling keen to be knighted to cement his hardfought rise to the upper class happy spending a lot of time in expensive shops cheap labour. prepared to marry Sheila, despite her

lower social position awkward about his 'public-school-andVarsity' life socially superior to her husband, and embarrassed at his gaffes a mistress who could be discarded at will. easy sex at the end of a drunken night out. a presumptuous upstart. someone who

could be fired out of spite. Class Public and Private lives The Palace Variety Theatre was a music hall. It was not seen as quite 'respectable' entertainment - probably not somewhere where Sheila would have gone. The bar of the Palace Variety Theatre, where Eva Smith met both Gerald and Eric, is presented as both a bar for the lower classes and a favourite haunt of prostitutes. We could ask what Gerald and Eric were there in the first place! Alderman Meggarty, a local dignitary, also went there a lot. Priestley is trying to show that the upper classes are unaware that the easy lives they lead rest upon hard work of the lower classes. Gender Eva Smith - Because Eva was a woman - in the days before

women were valued by society and had not yet been awarded the right to vote - she was in an even worse position than a lower class man. Even upper class women had few choices. For most, the best they could hope for was to impress a rich man and marry well which could explain why Sheila spent so long in Milwards. For working class women, a job was crucial. There was no social security at that time, so without a job they had no money. There were very few options open to women in that situation: many saw no alternative but to turn to prostitution. Look at these quotations, showing the attitude to women of some characters: Mr Birling is dismissive of the several hundred women in his factory: "We were paying the usual rates and if they didn't like those rates, they could go and work somewhere else." Gerald saw Eva as "young and fresh and charming" - in other words, someone vulnerable he could amuse himself by helping. Mrs Birling couldn't believe that "a girl of that sort would ever

refuse money." Her charitable committee was a sham: a small amount of money was given to a small amount of women, hardly scratching the surface of the problem. Why did Priestley decide to hinge his play on the death of a young working class woman rather than the death of a young working class man? Age The older generation and the younger generation take the Inspector's message in different ways. While Sheila and Eric accept their part in Eva's death and feel huge guilt about it, their parents are unable to admit that they did anything wrong. This table looks at these contrasting ideas: The Old (Mr and Mrs Birling)

The Young (Sheila and Eric) The old are set in their ways. They are utterly confident that they are right and they see the young as foolish. The young are open to new ideas. This is first seen early in Act 1 when both Eric and Sheila express sympathy for the strikers - an idea which horrifies Birling, who can only think of production costs and ignores the human side of the issue. The old will do anything to protect themselves: The young are honest and admit their faults. Mrs. Birling lies to the Inspector when he first Eric refuses to try to cover his part up, saying, shows her the photograph; Mr. Birling wants to "the fact remains that I did what I did.

cover up a potential scandal. They have never been forced to examine their consciences before and find they cannot do it now - as the saying goes, 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks.' Sheila and Eric see the human side of Eva's story and are very troubled by their part in it. They do examine their consciences. Mr. and Mrs. Birling have much to fear from the visit of the 'real' inspector because they know they will lose everything. Sheila and Eric have nothing to fear from the visit of the 'real' inspector because they have already admitted what they have done wrong, and will change.

Gerald and Age Gerald Croft is caught in the middle, being neither very young nor old. In the end he sides with the older generation, perhaps because his aristocratic roots influence him to want to keep the status quo and protect his own interests. Ultimately, Priestley presents to the audience that they can be optimistic that the young those who will shape future society - are able to take on board the Inspector's message.

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