An Inspector Calls

How J.B. Priestley Creates Sympathy for Eva Smith in "An Inspector Calls"

In "An Inspector Calls", J.B. Priestley uses the characters and attitudes of the Birling family, especially Mr. Birling, to make the audience feel sympathy for Eva Smith. The family is "prosperous" and "comfortable", and Mr. Birling's ostentatious posturing emphasizes their good fortune. In the opening lines of the play, he is found discussing port with Gerald, immediately giving the audience a sense of the family's financial security. When Mr. Birling tells Gerald and Eric that a man should "look after his own", and not listen to the "cranks" who talk about "community and all that nonsense", it becomes obvious that he has no interest in the welfare of people like Eva Smith. By making Mr. Birling so arrogant and pompous, JB Priestley renders his character deeply unattractive and encourages the reader to sympathize with his oppressed workforce.

The entry of the Inspector causes a dramatic shift in the play's atmosphere, drawing attention to his shocking news. He almost immediately announces that Eva Smith has "died in the infirmary" after swallowing "strong disinfectant" that "burnt her inside out". This language provides a...

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