Themes of play 

Birling looks upon the engagement of the couple as a business transaction when he says “…perhaps we may look forward to a time when Crofts and Birlings are no longer competing…” (p.4). There is much talk of the problems in society when Birling discusses ” …the miners … out on strike” (p.6) and that he was concerned only with ” …the interests of Capital -” (p.6). This creates tension in the play because the audience is being made aware that while on the surface a party is going on, there is a threat to the security of the family. This is further discussed when Birling says “… you’ll hear some people say that war’s inevitable”. (p.6). This is dramatical irony in its self, as just after the play was set, the first world war had broken out. This is a strange approach showing that Birling has little faith in society changing and working around the problems it has.

The exposition has created the atmosphere of happy family life for the middle classes but has also introduced an undercurrent of insecurity with the mention of strikes and a war. The audience is being drawn in to the play because of the suspense. To raise the tension and suspense in the play, entrances and exits are well timed. When Inspector Goole enters it combines with Edna leaving. This created a space for the character of the Inspector who was descried in the text as creating ” …an impression of massiveness,” (p.11). This ensures that the Inspector is noticed and you know this character will be important in the play.

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The Inspector calmly describes the death of the young woman. He produces a photograph of the woman who had been an employee of Birling’s, her name was said to be Eva Smith. The Inspector controls who sees the photograph. When asked why he dismissed Eva Smith for asking for a relatively modest wage increase, Birling tries to defend himself by citing financial reasons. He is surprised when the Inspector asks why he refused the increase as he is sure the Inspector will agree with him.

Birling again shows his disregard for other people when he says that if Eva Smith did not like working at his company she could “…go and work somewhere else – it’s a free country.” (p.?). This view is undermined when Eric points out that “it isn’t if you can’t work somewhere else

As the Inspector’s interviews with the other characters, Birling becomes more and more agitated and stage directions to describe his mood such as “bothered, angrily and sharply” (p.?) show that he is not in a good frame of mind. He appears to be slowly learning his lesson but is getting very angry as he sees that all he believes in is wrong. As he discovers the revelations about Eric’s theft of the money he becomes more and more desperate, and just before the Inspector’s departure he says he will give “thousands� to keep the story quiet. Birling is told by the Inspector that he is “offering the money at the wrong time” meaning he should have given Eva the pay rise. Eva Smith will make him pay “a heavy price” (p.?) in terms of emotion, not money. This will effect him for the rest of his life.

After the Inspector’s departure, Birling admits that he has “learnt a lot” (p.?) from his visit. However, he immediately singles out Eric as “the one I blame for this [the scandal]” (p.?) so he still seems to have little notion of community as he should, if he had learnt anything, be saying “we’re the ones to blame for this incident”. Instead he seems to be shifting blame from himself.

You can see that as soon as the characters begin to construct doubts about the legitimacy of the Inspector he tries to find a way out of his predicament. As the story unravels he becomes “excited” (p.?) on discovering that the Inspector is not real and soon he has managed to put the whole episode out of his head, despite protests from Eric and Sheila who try to tell him that “you still haven’t learnt anything.” (p.?) which shows that the younger generation has learnt from the incident, but the older generation is just stubborn.

Birling is far more concerned about what may happen if the news comes out in public than whatever he did to Eva Smith and makes fun of Eric and Sheila for “not being able to take a joke.” (p.?). However, the phone call he receives at the end of the play is not at all funny to him as it is a real Inspector wanting to question the family about a young girls death. This time it has happened. At the beginning of Act 2 the inspector stands in the door way before coming into the room and leaving the door open behind him demanding an answer from Gerald when he asks “Well?” (p.27). Gerald and Sheila are arguing while the Inspector remains calm and tries to find the culprit.

What is dramatic about this entrance? At the beginning of Act 3 the door is again used as a prop when Eric enters with everybody watching him. His return at the beginning of Act 3 is greeted with fury by Birling, who bitterly tells him that “you’re the one I blame for this” (p.?) and is joined by Mrs Birling, who is “also ashamed” (p.?) of him. This throws Eric into a wild rage in which he shouts at his mother for turning help away from Eva Smith when she needed it most. Birling dismisses Eric as a “hysterical young fool” (p.?) and I think that Eric feels hurt by these comments and events.

The Inspector finally leaves after making a speech about how society should be, before making an abrupt exit when he stated “We are members of one body … responsible for each other.” (p.56). The “obligatory scene” in “An Inspector Calls” is when the secret is revealed. This happens when Sheila finds out about Gerald’s affair. This adds to the tension and drama between Gerald and Sheila. “You not only knew her but you knew her very well.” (p.26). Gerald fought back with “I don’t come into this suicide business.” (p.26). Sheila realised that Gerald had been lying to her and that was the reason why he “…hardly came near…” (p.26) her last year. After Gerald’s confession Sheila tells the family that they are all responsible in different ways for the way the girl ended up dead. The audience is drawn into the drama because of the battle going on between Sheila and Gerald and the way Sheila turns on her family and they wait to see what will happen next.