The theme of selfishness is central to An Inspector Calls. Priestley questions the morality of the Birling and Croft
family and points out behaviours that are selfish. He also points to the wider selfishness of a society that is driven
by profit and with no structured welfare system to support vulnerable people. This is an expose of life in Edwardian
Britain that would have made a 1945 audience question what sort of society they wanted to create following the
devastation of two world wars.
This selfishness is presented in a number of ways.
Firstly, Priestly draws attention to the political and economic system that first set Eva off on her downward spiral.
With a lack of lawful ...view middle of the document...
He implies that he had sex with Eva by
force, his inability to say that he raped her perhaps suggesting his shame. The fact that he ‘easily’ turns nasty under
alcohol perhaps suggests a selfish nature that has come about because he can so easily get what he wants. This is
similar to Gerald’s decision to take on Daisy Renton as his mistress. Although he claims that he ‘didn’t ask her for
anything’ his wealth and status meant that had influence over a vulnerable woman. By using ‘anything’ he tries to
make him sound completely innocent, yet the audience knows that Gerald did get a sexual return from his mistress.
And that if he really loved her, he wouldn’t have left her after six months, to selfishly pursue his own marriage which
benefited his business interests. He claims that Daisy said ‘she had never been happier’, ‘happier’ suggesting that he
had a good influence on her life. But the happier he made her, the further she had to fall emotionally when he left
This is also highlighted by the way Gerald, alongside Mr and Mrs Birling, refuse to accept any responsibility for what
happened to Eva after the inspector’s visit. He seems to feel genuine emotion at the time of learning of Daisy’s
death, exclaiming ‘In that case – as I’m rather more – upset – by this business…’ The use of the hyphens perhaps
suggests that Gerald is struggling to contain his sadness or anger at what happened and finding it difficult to speak.
However, at the end of the play, after deciding the Inspector was a hoax, he seems to have quickly gotten...