How does Priestley explore the idea of poverty and privilege in an inspector calls

Luca Frigulti
Note by Luca Frigulti, updated more than 1 year ago
Luca Frigulti
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GCSE English Lit Note on How does Priestley explore the idea of poverty and privilege in an inspector calls, created by Luca Frigulti on 09/09/2016.

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How does Priestley explore the idea of poverty and privilege in an inspector calls Priestley explores the idea of poverty and privilege in an inspector calls by highlighting the contrast of lifestyles between the wealthy upper class of British society during the early 1900s, and the poorer proletariat. In the play, the Birlings are shown to be insensitive toward the lower classes and their struggles with basic living, especially Arthur Birling, who shows no empathy for his workers and even talks of paying them less, even though he himself describes his own upbringing as hard. The first act mainly uses the Birlings dinner party to portray just how much wealth they posses, which is quite a lot. Birling mentioning “You ought to like this port Gerald. As a matter of fact, Finchley told me it's exactly the same port your father gets from him.” Not only is this Birling trying to show off his wealth, he uses it to impress Gerald, to give him the impression that he can in fact afford the same high class amenities his father ( A titled lord ) can. The fact that both of Birlings children went to boarding school, and do not have to work (even though both being at age of which they would be able to) is showing their privilege, while most other young adults would have already been in a job a few years by then, Eric and Sheila were both still living a luxurious existence with their parents. Poverty is brought up in the case of the Inspector explaining Eva Smith's death and how she was desperately poor and without work due to each of the Birlings. The second act is mostly Gerald explaining his part of knowing Eva Smith (He knew her as Daisy Renton, the prostitute which he saved from an alderman at a local bar) In Britain during this time, a common way for single women to find work was through prostitution, although it was illegal, they would still go out to make money for themselves. Usually, prostitutes would become pregnant, with no credible contraceptives or abortion methods, they would be forced to give birth to the child, and either give them up to children's homes, or keep them, only burdening them further. It is not known if Gerald had made Daisy pregnant, or if she already had a child. Gerald's priviledged position in society meant that him and Daisy could never truly love her, as he admits that he didn't love her the same way she did him. Gerald eventually broke off their relationship and gave Daisy money to last her till the end of the year.Act three focuses on Ms Birling denying Eva any help from the women's charity she chaired. She unfairly judges Eva and denies her of any assistance, which is said to be the “final nail in the coffin” if it were, pushing Eva to desperately commit suicide. Eric also has an effect on Eva, giving her money, and apartment to stay at, but this eventually all led to her suicide.Priestley's love for dramatic irony is rampant throughout the play, in the first act, with Birling's speech and mentioning of such tragedies such as the Titanic, where he says “A friend of mine went over this new liner last week – the Titanic- she sails next week - forty-six thousand eight hundred tons - forty-six thousand eight hundred tons - New York in five days - and every luxury - and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable.” Of course, we know the Titanic sank off the coast of Newfoundland, on its maiden voyage, and it furthermore illustrates Birlings miss judgement in the state of affairs.In Britain during the early 1900s was going through revolutionary social changes. Workers were striking and demanding better pay for their jobs and were being listened to by factory owners, the rise of socialism and communism in other countries such as Russia was inspiring people to take action and form their own socialist parties (such as the labour party) The government was passing acts which meant workers couldn't be exploited to easily. The old victorian mentality people had was being replaced by a more modern responsible mindset. Change was occurring so fast it led to people demanding social responsibility from the government and the upper classes, which greatly annoyed the higher class. People were realising, both lower and upper classes, that poverty was something which should not be common place. There were large pushes for social reform and many were extremely successful, and have lasting effects in today's society. Many institutions such as the Monarchy and the house of lords have shifted from being seats of high power, to largely ceremonial and cultural institutions. In conclusion, Priestley explores poverty and privilege in an Inspector calls well, accurately showcasing the sturggles of workers in poverty during the early 20th century and illustrates how unfairly privileged the upper classes were.

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