An Inspector Calls is full of lies and deceit

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					An Inspector Calls is full of lies and deceit. Discuss fully the ways in
which JB Priestly explores the weakness and wickedness in the
Characters in the play and society.

In An Inspector Calls Priestly presents the weakness of his characters in a
number of ways. Gerald is unfaithful to Sheila, Eric tries to hide is alcoholism
and steals money, Sheila is jealous of Eva Smith and may of the characters
are hypocritical and lie to themselves about their own morals. By displaying
these traits among his characters, he gets the audience to question their own
morals and how they treat others in society.

Firstly, Gerald has an affair with Daisy Renton whilst being engaged to
Sheila. This is naturally deceitful in itself but his lust or desire could be seen
to display a weakness in his character as well. He must feel that the affair is
morally ‘wrong’ because he has told Sheila that he was “very busy at the
works last summer” omitting to tell her that he was keeping a mistress at the
same time. It’s interesting that Gerald also meets Daisy Renton in the stalls
bar at the Palace Theatre. He knows this is a haunt of “women of the town”
and so this suggests he went there with the intention of meeting a prostitute,
even if when he met Daisy Renton he seems to have behaved quite
honourably by “saving” her from Alderman Meggarty’s advances. By making
Gerald act in this way, Priestly seems to be saying that even those characters
who appear, as Sheila puts it; “like a fairy-tale prince”, might actually have
weaknesses and ultimately wickedness. This can be proved since although
Gerald began by helping Daisy Renton, he then ended the affair very abruptly
which left her more distraught than before they met. She was still without
money and lodgings but after the affair she probably felt used too.

Eric’s obvious weakness is alcohol. He becomes deceitful because of it since
he tries to hide it from his parents. Through this action in the play, Priestly
raises a lot about the theme of wickedness in society at large. Rather than
expressing anger at alcohol itself though, Priestly seems to be saying that we
should be more aware of, and care for, people who are vulnerable to it’s
addictive qualities. He is scathing in his attack on Mr and Mrs Birling who are
completely ignorant of their son’s problem. He presents them as stupid and
completely out of touch with their own family (the Inspector also shouts at Mr
Birling about his attitude towards Sheila saying “your daughter is not living on
the moon Mr Birling… !”) Priestly seems angry at a society which creates a
gulf between parents and children. The reason Eric keeps quiet about
needing money is because he says “you’re not the type of father a chap could
go to when he’s in trouble” and the result of this is that Eric compounds his
problems by stealing money instead.

Another type of weakness demonstrated is seen in Sheila’s story about being
jealous of Eva Smith’s attractiveness. Her relatively ‘harmless’ story can
actually affect the audience more than the other more ‘serious crimes’ of
stealing etc., because being jealous is something most people can admit to or
we can all imagine being envious of someone. Perhaps we would not have
taken it as far as Sheila and demanded that someone is sacked because of a
“bad mood”, but our actions may have had more serious consequences than
we had imagined at the time, just as Sheila’s did. So here, Priestly is
obviously asking the audience to question their own actions more closely.

Mrs Birling’s actions display deceitfulness but it is not deceit towards others.
Indeed, she is one of the most honest characters in the play in the sense that
she fully admits how she did nothing to help Eva Smith and does not try to
hide this from the inspector. But she is happy to admit her actions because
she sees no wrong in what she did. Priestly wants the audience to be
shocked and disgusted by this. This is why Priestly gets Mrs Birling to repeat
the fact that she has no shame or guilt, so often. Her deceit though, is
presented through her hypocrisy when she lies to herself. She states tat it is
the “father of the child who is responsible” and yet she does not want to see
her own son accused of driving the girl to suicide. She is the ultimate snob.
Someone who will set one rule for herself, or those of her class, and yet deny
the same rights for “girls of that sort” as she refers to Eva Smith.

It is this hypocrisy in society at large that is the main lie and wickedness
priestly wants to expose by writing An Inspector Calls, in the hope that after
the landslide victory of the 1945 Labour Party, the people of Britain would
want to change the class-ridden society they lived in and show more
compassion and equality to others.

An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestly – what do you think are the most
important factors that contributed to Eva Smith’s death?

There are several important factors that contributed to Eva Smith’s death – the actions
and behaviour of Mr and Mrs Birling, the relationship with Gerald and with Eric. It is
the accumulation of these various factors which, I believe drove Eva Smith to take her
own life.

Mr Birling is a bumptious, conceited and a ‘hard-headed business man’ His primary
concern is therefore his business and his wealth. All his speeches in Act One, whilst
beginning with the expression of his happiness for his daughter’s engagement, ended
with discussion of business and ‘prosperity’

The Inspector instigates Birling to admit his involvement with Eva Smith. He had
employed her nearly two years before her death. However, he sacked her from her
position because she had the audacity to ask for an increase in pay. Mr Birling ‘refused,
of course’. Eva Smith disrespectrully opposed Mr Birling, ‘She’d had a lot to say – far
too much – so she had to to’.

Birling’s blinkered and dogmatic beliefs and his greed for money contributed to the
death of Eva Smith as he used his power - his authority and class and wealth – to force
Eva Smith to leave, making her redundant and unable to provide for herself.

Mrs Birling, like her husband, also abused her power, authority and influence to ensure
that Eva Smith was not helped by the Brimley Women’s Charity Organisation. She
admits herself as being ‘prejudiced against her case’ because Eva called her ‘Mrs
Birling’. Mrs Birling felt that this was a deliberate sign of ‘gross impertinence’ and
insolence. Yet, despite Eva’s death, she still felt no remorse of compassion.

Mrs Birling defends her decision before the Inspector, stating ‘Yes, it was’ her
influence, as a prominent member of the community, that finally refused to give Eva
Smith any help, insisting that Eva Smith simply did not make the right claims. Mrs
Birling intimates that she was a liar and disrespectful and thus justifies her decision to
have the claim refused.

Sheila, however, though she played a significant part in contributing to her death cannot
be condemned as much as her parents. Sheila confesses she got Eva Smith sacked from
Milward’s because she was jealous of her beauty and used her influence to ensure she
was made redundant, ‘I told him that if they didn’t get rid of that girl, I’d never go near
the place again … I’d persuade mother to close our account with them.’

Gerald Croft claims that he didn’t Install her (Eva Smith) there so that I could make
love to her’ but in order to help her. He rescued her from the advances of a local
drunk, Joe Meggarty, and gave her food, shelter and stability. However, unintentionally,
he ended the affair badly and abruptly and this inevitably made Eva Smith feel awfully
used and manipulated.

To make matters worse, Eric became involved with her also and made her pregnant, but
she ended the relationship although he offered her money. She then turned to Mrs
Birling for help.

It is quite evident that although each of the characters were linked to Eva Smith, like
rings on a chain, no one knew about the other. Each character betrayed Eva Smith
morally – they each manipulated Eva’s lack of authority and low social class. Mr and Mrs
Birling used social politics to justify their actions. These blinkered views of class and
lack of responsibility were apparent in each relationship. This is the most important
factor which contributed to Eva Smith’s death – the lack of responsilility for one’s own
actions – but also the lack of community. The lack of compassion and human decency to
help someone in trouble, asking for nothing in return

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