Comparing The Lives Of Sheila And Eva Smith

1783 words - 8 pages

In 1912, the time in which "An Inspector calls" is set, British society was in a state of great unrest. Even though the play was written in 1946, Priestly reveals his opposition to materialism in society by attacking an Edwardian family with his criticism. He writes about his worries about society at the time and how they affect the community. By setting the play back in the Edwardian times, Priestly seems to be warning everyone about how the way things used to be and the dangers of the same system returning to our present society. The rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer. There were genuine fears of a revolution.The community was divided into three different classes. ...view middle of the document...

With both her parents dead, unlike Sheila, she is forced to work under terrible conditions to survive. The workers were paid low wages and exploited by the rich. It only took a common circumstance like redundancy, illness, old age, birth of more children or drunkenness for families to fall into real poverty. The rich, industrial people exploited the working classes ruthlessly. In 1910, there was a miner's strike, and in 1911 there was another one by seamen, dockers and railway men.At the time of the play, women had just been given the vote in 1918, but they had to be over 30 years old. J B Priestly shows his concerns for the society in this play by connecting the terrors of the community to one family who have a high social status. Due to the low wages and high prices, many unemployed people saw charity as their last resort. Charities were the only form of social help so people were only granted their requests if they were very desperate. Mrs Birling works with a charity, and although this shows her as a kind, helpful person, serving to help the community, she is merely helping with a charity, so that she will be accepted higher up in the social classes. The separation of the upper and working classes were evident on board the ship Titanic. Whereas the upper classes enjoyed long, comfortable parties in the large halls, the working classes were forced to make their own entertainment in the little space that they had at the bottom of the ship. Priestly uses dramatic irony in the play, when Mr Birling begins to talk about the Titanic being unsinkable "and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable" This reveals what Priestly saw in his society; the rich being content with life and refusing to accept the harsh realities of the outside world.Sheila is one of the most complex characters of the play. She has been brought up in a wealthy family, which has prevented her from glimpsing the harsh realities of the outside society. Being brought up in a wealthy family means that Sheila is not expected to go out and earn a living. Maids are constantly looking her after and her parents influence most of her decisions. At the start of the play, Sheila has the same attitudes as her parents. She refuses to notice all the pain and suffering in the outside world, just like her father. Mr Birling, who is "rather portentous", is so morally blind that he rules out any possibility that there will be a World War two and that the Titanic will sink. Priestly makes this very ironic because at the time that the play was written, the titanic had sunk and the World War Two had finished. Not only was Mr Birling content with his life, but also his wife, Mrs Birling is very much the same. She is even more hypocritical and arrogant than her husband and is " a rather cold woman". She considers anybody in the class below her to be "impertinent" and worthless; almost as if they are another species."Girls of that class" Therefore she cannot see how the death of a "lower class" person can be...

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