‘An members of society, to emphasise how unfairly they

‘An Inspector Calls’ is a play which was written in 1945, and set in
early 1912. It was a period where the British Empire was at the height of its
power. The Empire was often perceived as an exaggerated version of society
which helps in emphasizing how
unfair and unbalanced society was. Priestley was a socialist and believed that
there should not have been any class distinctions within society, and that all
people were to be seen equally and treated fairly. He also believed that there
should have been a re-distribution of wealth to create a more equal society.
Priestley includes the theme of social responsibility as one of the play’s main
themes, and presented it in various forms; such as the responsibility towards
workers, family members, and strangers and so on. To achieve this, the
playwright utilised the Inspector as his voice, and granted him God-like
characteristics to have a greater impact on the audience. He also represented
the different members of society vividly by making the Birlings (and Gerald
Croft) represent the wealthy members of society, and continuously projects
their lack of social responsibility; and made Eva Smith present the other
members of society, to emphasise how unfairly they were treated. Despite the
vivid class distinctions, Priestley successfully shows the audience that people
can eventually learn to be socially responsible through the use of the younger
characters.

Soon after Sheila walks into the investigation,
we see a rapid development in her character, wherein she had turned into more
of a responsible and caring person rather than the materialistic and
self-centred character we were introduced to. We sense this as she says ” I
think it was a mean thing. Perhaps that spoilt everything for her”. This emphasises
how Sheila changed, wherein she showed a genuine understanding of the aspect of
social responsibility. This leads the audience to develop a sort of respect
towards her; unlike her father who had lost the respect of the audience through
his ignorant claims.

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Priestley does this to show the audience that
people can learn to be socially responsible. Furthermore, the use of the words
‘that might have spoilt everything for her’ is describing the ‘chain of events’
the Inspector had mentioned earlier on when he described the reasons behind Eva
Smith’s death; whilst Sheila was absent. This assures the audience that
Sheila’s character has indeed developed, and that she came to care about
others’ welfare rather than only that of her own. Priestley does this to create
a contrast between Sheila and her father who only cared about making profits.
This accentuates the fact that we are able to change no matter how we used to
be and who we are affiliated with. Priestley might also be doing this to make
the audience develop a trust towards the Inspector, in order to make The
audience believe whatever he would say and do; as every word that he had so far
seem to be truthful. This helps the playwright relay his messages through the
Inspectors speech and actions. 

Sheila was the first
character in the play who truly understood the importance of social
responsibility. Priestley emphasises this through the Inspector’s words as he
said, ” (about Sheila) if she leaves us now … she’ll be alone with her
responsibility, the rest of tonight, all tomorrow, all the next night” The use
of the words ‘alone with her responsibility’ create a gloomy and depressing
effect, as the audience is left to imagine the guilt that Sheila would have
felt which had been the result of her lack of social responsibility. The word
‘alone’ emphasises the depth of the feeling, and thereby, the importance of
social responsibility, wherein she will have to suffer by herself, without
anyone with her or helping her through it.