‘An Inspector Calls’ is a morality play, which means it has a meaning behind the story and uses examples to differentiate from right and wrong. At the start of the play Mr and Mrs. Birling’s morals are about money and status and they would do anything to improve it. Mr. Birling believes that you are only responsible for yourself, when he says, “a man has to make his own way” and that “a man has to mind his own business and look after himself”. Mr. Birling also says to the Inspector, “They wanted… twenty-five shillings a week. I refused, of course.” All of the characters are a bit like this and their lives revolve around money.
Socialism and Capitalism are mentioned throughout the play, and Capitalism means a world that revolves around making more money for the rich, which Mr. Birling could be accused of Socialism, is believing that everyone should be equal and there should be no rich/poor divide. Priestley uses the character of the Inspector to voice his own views and he makes it seem as if socialism is the true and honest way to live. At the start of the play all the characters were more capitalist, but by the end of the play Eric and Sheila show hints of Socialism. Socialism and Capitalism relate to the moralistic play because each character has their own morals and by the end of the play we see that their morals have consequences.
Towards the end, I think the characters are supposed to have learnt to think about other people and not to be so selfish, maybe to also consider about their actions, however minor they may seem, can have devastating effects on other people. In the Inspector’s final speech he says, “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.” The views he is sharing are reflecting Priestley’s who was a socialist.
This is not only aimed at the characters, but the audience too, and it means that there are plenty of other people in Eva’s position, so everyone can make sure they don’t repeat their mistakes, and they can still make a difference to other people’s lives. This is the opposite of what Mr. Birling was saying at the beginning of the play about looking after yourself and minding your own business. So he should have learnt that if he carries on like that, then it will have consequences like it did have for Eva Smith.
In this essay I have discussed the different characters and their behaviour at the start of the play and how that contrasts to their attitude at the end of the play. I have also talked about the morals in the play and how the idea of dramatic irony is explored through the character of Mr. Birling. I have found out that once the characters find out that the Inspector wasn’t real, Mr and Mrs. Birling automatically tried to reject the idea that a girl has died as a result of their actions towards her, whereas the younger characters in the play feel guilty and have been affected greatly by what went on. They also feel ashamed and in disbelief at how their parents seem to not care that much and how selfish they turn out to be.
We are introduced to the characters through the theme of Sheila and Gerald’s engagement party, which contrasts to what the evening had in store for them. The play makes it clear at the beginning about the hierarchy and who has most power, which is Gerald. So we can then see how Mr. Birling tries to impress him. I think the audience is prepared for the idea that the Inspector isn’t real by giving us clues, especially when we see that the Inspector is called ‘Inspector Goole’, which sounds like ghoul, which means ghost.
I don’t think the audience is prepared for the phone call at the end of the play from the police station, about a girl who has committed suicide; this is an unexpected twist in the play. I think Mr and Mrs. Birling would have the most to fear from the ‘real’ Inspector’s visit because they know they will lose everything, whereas Sheila and Eric have nothing to fear because they have already admitted their wrongs, and will change. And although the Inspector may not have been real, the situation was.