1.1 The play reveals a lot about Priestley's socialist views. His play promotes
social responsibility and criticises how problems cause class division.
1.1.1 The play tries to make the audience question their social
responsibility and how responsible they are for their own actions.
184.108.40.206 Priestly wants people to look after people less fortunate than themselves
not just, as Birling comments, "look after himself - and his family too."
1.2 The characters all at some point say the words responsible or
responsibility showing it's the overriding theme of the play.
1.3 Each member of the family has a different attitude to responsibility. The Inspector tells
them "each of you helped to kill her." But some choose to ignore this responsibility.
1.4 MR BIRLING
1.4.1 Ignores his responsibility to his workers by paying them as little as possible to ensure
"lower costs". He defends this by saying is was what was "paid generally in our industry".
220.127.116.11 We assume as an audience that other business men in this field have the same
attitude as he does so this means they all pay their workers as little as possible.
18.104.22.168.1 When they strike back he sacks the "ringleaders" sending a message to his workers
that if they go against him they will lose their jobs, stopping others from protesting.
1.4.2 The irony is when he says "it's a free country" so his workers can work somewhere
else as there wouldn't be opportunity to.
1.4.3 He firmly believes he did the right thing but does begin to show a change when he says he's give "thousands and thousands"
to bring Eva back. But he withdraws this when he believes the Inspector was a hoax. Also, if he has given less than thousands
in the first place when she asked she wouldn't have died. His idea that money can solve the problem is a typical capitalist view.
1.4.4 Priestly uses Birling to promote his socialist views. The audience are already aware of Birling's short
sighted opinions so when he criticises socialism saying you should "look after himself" the audience
become more inclined to disagree with a character they don't like.
1.4.5 Birling believes that social responsibility is "nonsense" and that the interests of
business are more important than the workers rights.
2 MRS BIRLING
2.1 She behaves even more irresponsibly than her husband. As the head of a charity her
main focus is to help those in need, yet she chooses not to help Eva for no reason
other than feeling insulted that she used her name in an act of "impertinence".
2.2 She is prejudiced against the lower classes, clearly seeing them as inferior and ignoring her responsibility
to help them. She is probably only part of the charity so she looks more important to others.
2.3 She refuses to accept responsibility for what happened to Eva and she feels her position in
the upper classes should giver her right to not answer questions about her involvement.
2.3.1 She gives very brief answers to the Inspector and only talks openly when she is forced.
Even then she sees nothing wrong in her 'prejudice' against Eva, preferring to blame the
girl herself and firmly putting the blame on the father who is unknowingly her own son.
2.4 Unlike Mr Birling she's the only character who fails to show any remorse for her actions and she seems not to learn
any lessons from the Inspectors visit. Like her husband, she seems intent on carrying on the way she was before b/c
her prejudices are set in stone and so she refuses to believe they have any responsibility for the working class.
3.1 In contrast to her parents, Sheila
takes responsibility for her actions
and seems to learn lessons.
3.2 Sheila is genuinely upset to hear about Eva's death and horrified to her own involvement.
3.3 She talks openly about what she did and why, claiming she got Eva sacked because she was in "furious
temper" and admits she was jealous of her.
3.4 She does learn lessons and the audience believes her when she says "I'll never, never do it again to
anybody." She spends the rest of the play supporting the Inspector in his enquires and she is shocked to
see so many people go against what they have learnt.
3.5 She and Eric are different people at the end with both learning lessons about how to behave
responsibly and we feel that they will treat people more fairly from now on.
4.1 Eric's treatment of Eva is particularly irresponsible as he uses her for sex after a drunken night out. He
admits he cannot remember what happened but "threatened to make a row" if she didn't let him in.
4.2 As the Inspector pointed out he treated her as an 'animal' just there to fulfil his sexual desires. The fact he only kept
going back to her for sex shows he wasn't thinking about the consequences and only does so when she falls pregnant.
4.3 Eva's pregnancy changes Eric and he begins to behave more responsibly. He sees it as his duty to provide for her and offers to marry her, the responsible thing to do.
4.4 He only steals from his father b/c he is desperate and has no choice. Like Sheila, he learns from his mistakes and stands beside her appalled at how his parents refuse to change and seem willing to carry on as before.
5.1 Gerald certainly helped Eva by first taking her away from the clutches of Joe Meggarty and then providing food and shelter for her.
5.1.1 Yet we do wonder if he would've done this for anyone other than a pretty girl and when Sheila calls him the "wonderful Fairy
Prince" we understand that his treatment of her was making him feel good.
5.2 He also fails to provide her with a long-term future when he decides after a while to end the relationship, although he does at least give her money to be getting along with.
5.3 The Inspector certainly feels he should take less responsibility than the others and his kindness to Eva is seen in stark contrast to her treatment by the
other upper class character, Mrs Birling, who refuses to help her.
6.1 His final message for the audience as well as the family is "One Eva Smith has gone - but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths
still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, and what we think and say and do."
6.1.1 The Inspector is talking about a collective responsibility, everyone in society is interlinked, in the same way all the characters are linked to Eva.
Everyone is part of "one body" The Inspector sees society as more important than individual interests.
6.2 The views he presents are like those of Priestley who was a socialist, showing, once again that he is a mouthpiece.
6.3 He adds a clear warning about what could happen if, like some of the characters, ignore their responsibility "and I tell you that the time will soon come when, if
men will not learn that lesson, they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish."
6.3.1 The speed that this can happen is shown in the play when the phone call comes
as soon as the elder Birlings state they will go back to their irresponsible ways.
6.3.2 He's thinking partly of the war that is to come - the result of the government blindly pursuing "national interest" at all costs. He was probably also thinking of the
Russian revolution where poor workers and peasants took over the state and exacted a bloody revenge against the aristocrats who had treated them so badly.