An Inspector Calls

Birling offers Gerald Port. What does this brief opening exchange between them reveal?

Think about his reference to Gerald's family...

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He mentions the port because it's a prestige thing....... all about appearances and money.

"Birling is pouring port, which, he remarks, is the same port that Gerald’s father buys."

An Inspector Calls, as its curtain rises, does not seem particularly different from many other plays popular in the same period. A middle-class family sits around a table, having just enjoyed a satisfying dinner, and the maid clears the table. The scene sets the expectation that this is going to be a family drama, maybe even a comedy, and the focus will be on this happy family environment. Yet, Priestley’s play undergoes a subtle shift in mood and tone until it has become something much more unusual, which defies both its initial expectations and its seeming naturalism.

This first tableau, for example, can be seen as something other as a cozy emblem of this rich family’s life, for among them is a picture of one of the “millions and millions” of Eva Smiths, here working for what is likely a minimum wage, clearing the table and putting out port and cigars. It is no accident, surely, that “Eva” the girl and “Edna” the maid have such similar names. The presence of Edna onstage throughout the play symbolizes the presence of Eva and reinforces Priestley’s ultimate point about the abuse of power and the failure to take sufficient responsibility for one’s actions toward others.