The Theme Of Responsibility In An Inspector Calls
Priestley explores responsibility through all the characters. His aim was to highlight that our actions always affect another person even if we think it doesn’t Priestley wanted a socio-political shift in the world as he wanted people to help build a better and caring society. In inspector calls there is a heavy use of anadiplosis in the inspector’s speech this is to make sure the Birling family understood their actions were all linked and they were all responsible for Eva smith death therefore Priestley uses inspector Goole to speak directly to the audience about social responsibility to highlight that as a society we need a change we should be more responsible for each other.
When inspector interrogates Arthur Birling, Mr Birling shows no remorse and will not take responsibility for his actions he insists that ‘if we don’t come down sharply on these people, they soon be asking for the earth’ he uses the hyperbole ‘asking for the earth’ to imply that they’re asking for too much and they should in fact be grateful as he feels this is unreasonable. Priestley wanted his audience to realise this attitude is negative instead of punishing ‘these people’ we should be respectful of them and look after one another as ‘we are all members of one body’ therefore we are responsible for one another. The phrase ‘these people’ is unsympathetic because he feels that lower-class people deserve nothing. This shows how impertinent Mr Birling is as he feels he can mistreat other people just because of his class. The adverb ‘sharply’ suggests Mr birling feels that we should treat the lower class as insignificant and harsh because he feels they do not deserve to be treated as everyone else which Priestley opposed as he wanted everyone to act as a community he showcases Mr birling’s nasty and rude behavior to disgust his audience.
In contrast to Mr Birling his daughter Sheila Birling takes responsibility for her actions when she is interrogated about her jealousy towards Eva she informs the inspector ‘and I’ll never, never do it again to anybody.’ The contraction ‘i’ll’ displays a strong and determined attitude which evokes the idea that sheila wants to change her awful behaviour she demonstrates at the start of play as she realised what she did to Eva was spiteful and wrong Priestley highlights this to show the audience that society needs to be responsible for how they treat others. The repetition of the adverb ‘never’ shows sheila is regretful for what she did to Eva and this also shows her remorseful nature as she feels guilty for Eva’s suicide. The pronoun ‘anybody’ reveals that she has learnt her lesson and will now put that to expert use and change by eating others better instead of treating them horribly. The alliterative ‘a’ sound on ‘again’ creates an apologetic tone and implies that she is ashamed at how he mistreated Eva and wants to accept her mistakes.
Similar to her husband sybils shows a devoid of responsible regarding Eva’s suicide this is displayed where she says ‘i should think not.Eric, I’m absolutely ashamed of you’. expresses strong assertion that Sybil has learnt nothing from the inspector as she turns around and blames her son. The adverb ‘absolutely’ shows how sybil birling is quick to pin the blame on eric instead of realising what she did to Eva. Throughout the play we see her not to care about Eva smith as she says ‘she did her duty’ when she didn’t she was very dismissive. The adjective ‘shamed’ implies that sybils is disgusted by her own son but she shouldn’t be because she was the one who rejected Eva when she came for help for her Grandson.
Like her sister, eric seems to be influenced by the inspector message whereas his parents and Gerald seem to let themselves off easy when they find out Inspector Goole is a hoax this is shown when he says ‘you lot may be letting yourselves out nicely, but i can’t’ in this phrase eric expresses his anger towards his parents because he feels they don’t care about the damage they caused Eva they only care about their reputation and innocence. The noun ‘letting’ suggest that they have forgotten about what the inspector told them and are quick to relieve themselves from any guilt as they disregard Eva suicide. The phrase ‘i can’t’ suggests that Eric is obstinate that he will ever forget what he and family did that drove Eva to suicide.
Overall, Priestley portrays social responsibility negatively e.g Mr birling to highlight to his audience that we need to change our selfish ways but he also shows the positive form e.g Sheila to suggest to the audience there is time to make a difference and treat each other with respect he cleverly does this to use of effective language and stage directions which showcases the characters different feelings and reactions.