An Inspector Calls - Themes


Mind Map on An Inspector Calls - Themes, created by Emily Simms on 16/05/2014.
Emily Simms
Mind Map by Emily Simms, updated more than 1 year ago
Emily Simms
Created by Emily Simms almost 10 years ago

Resource summary

An Inspector Calls - Themes
  1. Social Class
    1. Eva Smith
      1. Mr.Birling -She was cheap labour
        1. "If they didn't like those rates they could go and work somewhere else"
        2. Shelia- someone who could be fired out of spite
          1. "I couldn't be sorry for her"
          2. Gerald- A mistress who could be dismissed at will
            1. "And by that time Daisy knew it was coming to an end"
            2. Eric-Easy fun at the end of a drunken night out
              1. I wasn't in love with her or anything "
              2. Mrs Birling- An arrogant status seeker
                1. "As if a girl like that would ever refuse money!"
              3. Class Structure
                1. Working Class
                  1. Had all the hardest jobs and little money
                    1. Eva/Daisy: Struggles through life doing hard jobs , earning just enough to survive
                  2. Middle Class
                    1. Owned factories or were professionals(like lawyers). Had plenty of money and control.
                      1. The Birlings: Wealthy and own a business, able to live very comfortably
                        1. Think class is all that matters
                          1. Mr Birling's biggest concern about Eva's death is that he won't get his knighthood because there will be a "public scandal"
                            1. Thinks his positions of authority make him more important eg. Lord Mayor and a council member
                              1. He uses Gerald to promote his social class eg. pleased his daughter is marrying into a higher class
                                1. Sybil Birling is a leading member of the Brumley Women's Charity Organisation but only involved for the social status
                                  1. Priestley thought class shouldn't matter
                                    1. Priestley uses the play to show the unfairness of the class system
                                      1. Uses the Birlings as exaggerated caricatures of all the bad qualities he thought the ruling classes had
                                      2. Isn't just about one family's scandal. Its shows how Priestley saw society. He presents their arrogant behaviour and selfish attitudes as common to the middle class
                                        1. Presents the working class as vicitms of the class system,- although Eva/Daisy's story was unique the miseries she suffered were probably quite common. She could of been anyone.
                                2. Upper Class
                                  1. Inherited loads of land and money, were often Lords or Ladies
                                    1. Gerald: Family owns land and are socially 'better' than the Birlings. Inherited money had a higher status than trade
                                    2. Limited sense of social responsibility for those well off- They either didn't know, didn't want to know or they didn't care
                                      1. Didn't question the class system as it worked for them
                                      2. Meant that the Lower classes struggled
                                        1. How people act isn't just about class
                                          1. Eva/Daisy is expected to have low morals but she doesn't accept stolen money even when she is desperate
                                            1. Birlings think class is all that matters but Priestley is trying to present the opposite view. Hes suggests that class only clouds peoples judgement and people should be judged by what they do not by what class they were born into
                                              1. By having Eric and Shelia changed by the end of the play it shows that class doesn't define you , individuals can break out and act differently
                                          2. Generation gap
                                            1. The older generation are old fashioned
                                              1. Arthur & Sybil Birling- Traditional views, think they know best, children should be seen and not heard, and they don't like their authority to be challenged.
                                                1. Represent the views of the ruling class
                                                  1. By questioning their old fashioned views, Priestley questions their obsession with social class , suggesting the whole class system is out of touch and needs to be reformed
                                                  2. The younger generation are different
                                                    1. Some are ambitious, determined and motivated- Eva/Daisy "had a lot to say-far too much". Her courage is the main reason she got fired
                                                      1. Challenging authority of elders. This threatens Mr Birling who tells them they'd "better keep quiet"
                                                        1. Because the younger generation are more accepting there is chance for an equal and fairer society in the future
                                                        2. Gerald's the oldest young man around
                                                          1. He is a young man who is already old in his attitudes
                                                            1. His marriage to Shelia is for business reasons. He agrees with Birling that Eva/Daisy had to be fired
                                                            2. He doesn't learn anything
                                                              1. When he's found out to have ditched Daisy/Eva he doesn't seem to feel guilty. At the end he thinks the engagement is back on: "Everything's all right now, Shelia".
                                                              2. The fact that Gerald is one of the younger generation but remains unchanged suggests that a more caring future isn't inevitable- people can choose whether to change or not. Priestley is also making a criticism of the upper classes, that they're set in their ways so they are unlikely to change.
                                                            3. Men & Women
                                                              1. The women and men start out as stereotypes
                                                                1. Women
                                                                  1. They're supposed to be obsessed with "pretty clothes", shopping and weddings- Shelia gazes adoringly at her ring and asks,"Is it the one you wanted me to have?".
                                                                    1. They're protected against "unpleasant and disturbing " things.
                                                                      1. Shelia gets Eva sacked because of pride, vanity, and jealousy-stereotypical female traits in the play.
                                                                      2. Men
                                                                        1. Preoccupied with work and public affairs eg."the miners came out on strike".
                                                                          1. Gerald feels it's his duty to rescue Daisy/Eva from the womanising Alderman Meggarty
                                                                            1. Gerald is allowed to sleep around before his marriage, Shelia isn't. Arthur even says that even in his day they "broke out and had a bit of fun sometimes". There are different rules for men and women.
                                                                          2. The young women challenge the stereotypes
                                                                            1. Eva/Daisy questioned the decision of her boss instead of quietly accepting it
                                                                              1. Instead of relying on a man to save her, Eva/Daisy refused to accept Eric's stolen money
                                                                                1. Shelia interrupts and challenges everyone at different times apart from the Inspector
                                                                                2. By the end the stereotypes are turned upside down
                                                                                  1. As the play develops, Birling, Gerald and Eric get weaker, while Shelia gets stronger. Priestley does this to challenge the audience's view of women at the time.
                                                                                    1. Gerald is rejected by Shelia and Eric is revealed to be nervous and lazy with a drinking problem. Birling suffers the most- the whole night has slowly undermined his authority. He is"panic stricken" as he speaks the final line- a very different man from the one at the start.
                                                                                      1. Shelia starts stating her own opinions , not those she is "supposed" to have-"That's whats important-and not whether a man is a police inspector or not".She has learnt to think for herself.
                                                                                    2. Judgement
                                                                                      1. Morality play: it points out everybody's sins and tries to make them confess and feel sorry.
                                                                                        1. But different because it doesn't follow christian ideas. The moral judge isn't God, it's the Inspector.
                                                                                        2. Something odd about the Inspector
                                                                                          1. Shelia says she had an idea"all along","there was something curious about him" and questions the supernatural side of the whole thing-she asks what he was not who he was.
                                                                                            1. His origin is unknown and he appears knowing everything-they didn't tell him anything he didn't already know. It seems strange that a real Inspector would know so many details.
                                                                                              1. Priestley deliberately leaves questions about the Inspector unanswered to increase the feelings of mystery and tension within the play.
                                                                                              2. The important thing is to learn the lesson
                                                                                                1. In the end it doesn't matter who the Inspector is. He teaches the Birlings a lesson- what matters most is how they react to it and which of them learns from it.
                                                                                              3. Social responsibility
                                                                                                1. The character's views are challenged
                                                                                                  1. Birling: Thinks that community responsibility is "nonsense". The interests of business are more important than workers rights.
                                                                                                    1. Shelia: Realises that getting Eva/Daisy sacked out of jealousy was irresponsible but she didn't do anything about it at the time. The Inspector challenges her to improve her behaviour.
                                                                                                      1. Eric: Realises too late that his selfish actions were responsible for ruining Eva/Daisy's chances of improving her life.
                                                                                                        1. Mrs Birling: Beieves they have no responsibility to the working class-her prejudices are so ingrained that they can't be changed.
                                                                                                        2. Social responsibilty is the Inspector's main focus
                                                                                                          1. His final speech is clear and to the point - it's his summary of responsibility.
                                                                                                            1. Wasn't trying to make them feel guilty just aware of the difficulties faced by"millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths.
                                                                                                            2. All the events in the play are connected. Priestley's moral seems to be that it doesn't take great people to change the world-we all change it everyday just by the way we treat others.
                                                                                                            3. The play reveals a lot about Priestley's socialist ideas
                                                                                                              1. He was a supporter of socialism- his plays premote social responsibility and criticise the problems caused by class divide.
                                                                                                                1. The play tries to make the audience question not only their social responsibility but also how responsible they are for their own actions.
                                                                                                                  1. The audience are already wary of Birling's short sighted opinions so when he criticises socialism, the audience are more inclined to disagree with him. In this way Priestley uses Birling to premote socialist ideas.
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