Explore Priestley’s presentation of the female characters throughout AIC.
An inspector call is a play written by the British Novelist J.B. Priestly. This play was set in the Edwardian era in 1912 when the class division was very apparent, and women were treated very poorly. The play is about the suicide of a young woman named Eva Smith. After the suicide, Inspector Goole visits the Birlings to learn a bit more information about suicide and to interrogate each member of the wealthy and upper-class family. Throughout the play, Priestly showcases themes of social responsibility, morality, and gender equality. Priestly also shows the social hierarchy throughout the play, where the Birlings are the upper class and Eva Smith is the working class.
Priestly portrays Mrs. Birling as an awfully powerful and a very ignorant lady. Within the stage directions, Mrs. Birling is said to be a “rather cold woman” this implies that she is viewed as someone who doesn’t show a lot of emotions and doesn’t have any regret for the death of a lower woman, Eva Smith. She is additionally terribly anxious about her social status and doesn’t wish to be seen with the working-class folks. Priestly also uses her to show his own capitalist views in An Inspector Calls to the audience. Mrs. Birling thinks that people should solely pay attention to themselves and not have social responsibility towards others. When Mrs. Birling says, “girls of this class-”. This infers that Mrs. Birling already has made presumptions regarding the lower class and this links to being a cold woman that she doesn’t care about the terrible state of the proletariats. To further show that Mrs. Birling looks down upon the lower class “of this class” this conjointly implies that she’s being self-centered towards Eva Smith and is demeaning the whole lower-class society. Mrs. Birling was a distinguished figure of the Brumley Women’s Charity Organization. This organization helps girls financially and mentally. Mrs. Birling didn’t wish this reality to return back out as a result of her getting embarrassed that she didn’t facilitate Daisy Renton when she came to the organization for help, she was also pregnant at that time. It is extremely ironic that even though she was a very prominent figure of the women’s charity organization, she still didn’t help Daisy Renton and in want of not being seen as selfish, Mrs. Birling says that Daisy was lying. Mrs. Birling didn’t place herself in Daisy’s shoes and only viewed her as a liar and a lower-class woman. And Mrs. Birling even had children and still didn’t perceive. Mrs. Birling says this in her defense to the inspector” As if a girl of that sort would ever refuse money” this shows that Mrs. Birling is being derogatory towards the lower class and Daisy. Throughout the play, Priestly is also trying to show how dominant the older generations are like Mrs. Birling.
Priestly presents Sheila Birling to indicate younger generations of the time and the way they show social responsibility. Throughout the play, we are able to see that Sheila matures and realizes her mistakes Priestly portrays Sheila Birling as “a pretty girl in her early twenties, very pleased about life and rather excited” this shows that she has had a really simple life because of the wealth of the Birlings and now is looking to get married. Sheila got Eva Smith sacked because she thought Eva was laughing at her. After the arrival of Inspector Goole, Sheila realizes that she had a part to play in the demise of Eva Smith. When Sheila says “if I could help her now, I would” we can infer that she currently realizes that what she did to Eva Smith was terrible and if she could go back in time to alter it, she would. From this, we can infer that she has learned her lesson and also takes responsibility. Priestly also tries to indicate that it’s also others who respond to the death of Eva Smith. We can see this when she says, “and probably between us, we killed her.” This shows that Sheila is making an attempt to form her family to perceive that they have driven the girl to suicide and not solely her. Another instance of this “(bitterly) I suppose we are all nice people now” Sheila gets angry with her parents because they pretend that they haven’t done anything wrong.
Priestly also portrays another side of Sheila Birling as the play progress, she Is seen to be brave and honest. Sheila and Gerald were getting married. Throughout the play, Gerald admits to being cheating on Sheila with Eva Smith. Sheila then starts to be brave and says “but just in case you forget – or decide not to come back, Gerald, I think you’d better take this with you. (she hands him the ring.)” this shows that Sheila understands and respects Gerald’s honesty. But because he cheated on her, she breaks the engagement because of the good morals Sheila has. Throughout the play, we can see how the younger generations like Sheila own up to their mistakes and have a sense of responsibility, unlike the older generations. Sheila also gradually matures throughout the play and learns many new things.
Eva Smith, arguably the foremost vital character in this play. She was presented victim in this play because of people’s selfishness; she was so hurt by the gestures of the Birlings that she committed suicide by drinking disinfectant. Priestly used her to show the social responsibility and therefore the morals people ought to have for treating one another, no matter what class they’re in. In Act 1 of An Inspector Calls, we discover that Eva’s parents were dead also. “Both her parents were dead, so she’d have no home to go back too”, this makes the audience feel very sympathetic for Eva because of all these terrible occurrences occurring to her. The inspector says “lonely, half-starved” Eva was in a terrible condition after she was sacked for two months by Mr. Birling. Mr. Birling sacked Eva because she was the provoker or the ringleader of a group of workers who asked for higher pay. She had very little control over her life, we can see this because when Eva Smiled at Sheila Birling, she sacked Eva from the store because she thought Eva laughed at her. This links to the point of how she has been the victim and how she has little control over her life.
The inspector played a very vital role in the play. He needed to present justice to Eva Smith because of how she was treated by the Birlings. When he explained the situation to the Birlings, he used these words “Burnt her insides out of course” Priestly made the inspector use emotive language to make the Birlings feel bad about what happened to her and also made them imagine it. Priestly used the inspector to show that everyone in the family has contributed to the death of Eva Smith.
Eric and Eva Smith had an affair. Eric met Eva Smith in the bar of the Palace Theatre. He forced himself on Eva Smith and then made her pregnant. After Eva Smith found out that she was pregnant she asked Eric for financial support for her baby. Eric then stole 50 pounds from Mr. Birlings business and went to give it to Eva, she refused this cash as a result of her being too ethical to accept purloined cash. This suggests that how kind and understanding Eva Smith was. For more information on Macbeth check on this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macbeth
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