An Inspector Calls

Social Responsibility in ‘An Inspector Calls’ 10th Grade

An Inspector Calls’, though set in 1912 in the Edwardian era, was written by J.B Priestley in 1945 as a piece of socialist propaganda to embrace the socialist views becoming more prominent in society, in place of capitalism. The theme of social responsibility is one of the main foundations of the play and contrasting beliefs towards this attitude are presented through each character.

Mr. Birling is presented as an embodiment of capitalism, with a lack of social responsibility and an arrogant attitude towards the lower classes. During his lecture to Eric and Gerald in Act 1 of the play, he orates that ‘A man has to make his own way…has to look after himself’. Here Mr. Birling is implying that everyone should be self-centred and only strive to better themselves. He explicitly expresses his capitalist view here and this is an iconic part of the play because it is at this exact point at which the Inspector arrives. The Inspector’s physical arrival cuts short Mr Birling’s capital rant and perhaps Priestley purposefully used the dramatic device of the ‘sharp ring’ of the doorbell to foreshadow how the Inspector will contradict Mr. Birling’s views and attempt to change them. After the Inspector’s entrance, Mr Birling very agitatedly...

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