The play is set in an upper-class household where classdistinctions are breaking down, where privilege and responsibility are beingchallenged by a devious so-called inspector Goole. The Inspector does a good job of making the family and friends of Mr Birling, (awealthy factory owner) feel very guilty for contributing towards the death ofEva-Smith who also becomes known as Daisy Renton during the play. But Moralguilt is not the major issue put forward in the play. The major issue is that ofhow class-conscious England has been put forward in the play and how theCapitalist’s and Socialist’s are shown.
Birling is a ruthless industrialist whoworked extremely hard to make his money, and when he finally reaches the top hiswealth and popularity is threatened by a suicide scandal. The characters are a mixture of Capitalist’s and Socialist’s, Mr Birling being aself made upper-class Capitalist, his wife also has great belief in the familyname, and works hard to keep a good reputation for herself and her family. Thesecretive but most sympathetic of the Birling’s is Eric their son, who has agreat deal to do with the Suicide of Eva Smith. Eric’s sister is Sheila who getson well with Eric but seems rather spoilt. Another key member in the play isSheila’s fiance Gerald Croft who is another wealthy industrialist, althoughGerald has inherited his wealth unlike Birling. Each of these people in turn is implicated in Eva Smith’s death.
Priestley putshis hope and his beliefs in Sheila and Eric, whose consciences have not yetbeen destroyed by their rich mother and father. Priestly’s modern equal class-consciousness is in evidence too, and a goodexample to show how the class difference really matters in Birling’s householdis how the Birling’s treat the maid. She is always there for the family, forexample during the late evening the family make reference to her when Geraldreturns from his stroll. Mr Birling in a state of distress is angered when thedoorbell rings and is extremely annoyed that he may have to answer the door.
Butthe cold hearted Mrs Birling had told Edna to wait until the inspector had leftjust so that she could make the family a pot of tea. “Mrs Birling- No don’t go I told Edna to wait up to make us some tea”When Edna returned with Gerald she was shown no gratitude. They show no respectfor her. But just when you think the drama will end, it delivers further surprises.
Theplay becomes more interesting and clear as it goes on, As the characters becomedrawn into manipulative control of the inspector and are forced out of theirupper-class shells. As the story continues Priestly shows how Capitalists can use their wealth overthe Poor working-class people like Eva Smith, all of these incidents lead toEva’s suicide, the first issue being when Birling sacks Eva because she askedfor a pay rise. Birling sacks her to be made an example of and to show that heis not willing to share a few pence of his wealth with the lower-class. Duringthe whole play Priestly writes so that you feel sympathetic towards Eva, he doesthis to make you feel sorry, not just for Eva but for all of the working-classpeople of England during that period in time.
Priestly is a strong Socialist and shows this by portraying the Birling’s as aruthless family. Priestly cleverly uses Eric and Gerald in the play, as theyboth sleep with Eva Smith, thus causing a family discrase because they had beenwith someone from a lower-class. Which although now would not even be thought of,but in 1912 scandal and discrase would have been brought on to any family in theBirling’s situation. I think that because maybe Priestly despises the capitalist’s a little he makesfun of the Birling family, a good of example of this is how Mrs Birling decidesto blame somebody other than her family for the whole suicide, she blames it onthe father of Eva’s child. This made her feel good about herself until she foundout that Eric her son was the father of the child therefore making her thegrandmother of the child.
So after all Mrs Birling only brought more shame ontothe family. “Mrs Birling- I blame the young man who was the father of the child she wasgoing to have, if as she said, he didn’t belong to her class, and was somedrunken young idler, then that’s all the more reason why he shouldn’t escape. “Notice how Mrs Birling makes reference to classes herself, she totally blamesthe young man until she finds out that he is her son, then she sees things in adifferent way. I think the most important speech in the whole play is as follows:”Inspector- Just remember this.
One Eva Smith has gone but there are millionsand millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, withtheir lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, allintertwined with our lives, with what we think, say, and do. We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other.
And I tell youthat the time will soon come when, if men will not that lesson, then they willbe taught it in fire and blood and anguish. Good Night. “I think that the speech sums up all of Priestly’s views he uses the Inspector totry and get the message across to all of mankind about how we should learn howto live equally and if we do not then the world will be a painful place formillions of lower-class people like Eva Smith. He uses the abrupt ending to makethe reader think about the situation. I think that J.
B. Priestly had very strong views about equal rights and he usesthe characters very well to get across his viewpoint all over the world.English