The play, An Inspector Calls, authored by J.B. Priestley is set in 1912 just before the commencement of World War I. However, it was written in 1944, at the conclusion of the World War II. Priestley makes use of the time difference to show the generational discrepancies after the World War I, and World War II, two important moments in history. Being amongst the first advocates of social and political change, Priestleys objective in writing the play was to compare the 1930s values with those of post-World War II, where people were undecided on whether to revert to a world characterized by Edwardian style values or abandon them and adopt new ones. In An Inspector Calls, Priestley depicts both Mrs. Birling and Sheila in dissimilar ways.
The first instance where Priestley presents the differences between Mrs. Birling and Sheila is seen where Sheila shows remorse for her actions against Eva Smith. Sheila is quoted saying, I am aware that what I did was bad. I am ashamed of it (Priestley, 1945 pp 43). In this instance, Sheila is not only regretting her bad actions but she is also sharing her socialist viewpoints with the Inspector as well as owning up her mistakes, thus contrasting Mrs. Birling who refuses to take responsibility for her mistakes. For instance, Mrs. Birling is quoted saying, I am very apologetic. However, in my opinion she has no one else to blame but herself (Priestley, 1945 pp 43). Here, Mrs. Birling not only refuses to own up her wrongdoings against Eva Smith but she is also expressing her capitalist views. Moreover, Mrs. Birlings statement is short and blunt unlike that of Sheila, which is detailed and expressing remorse. By shifting the blame to Eva, Mrs. Birling asserts her innocence to the Inspector. In addition, by stating that Eva should only blame herself in relevance to her death is blunt and egoistic in that she is absorbing her family and herself from the blame. Furthermore, the two statement from Sheila and her mother reflects the generational differences; Sheila expresses socialist views while her mother expresses capitalist views. The post-World War II world had socialist values while the generation that came after 1930s, which is commonly referred as the Great Depression era, shared capitalist views. Socialist values entails that people live as social beings and were expected to be mindful of others. Being a socialist, Sheila appears to mind Eva Smith and that is why she is apologizing and taking responsibility for her actions. In contrast, Mrs. Belong to a world that shared capitalist views and thus does not seem to care or mind the well-being of Eva Smith.
In the play, An Inspector Calls, Priestley depicts Mrs. Birling and Sheila in dissimilar ways. He uses the generational gap between Mrs. Birling and Sheila to compare the 1930s and the post-World War II era. Priestley depicts Sheila as a remorseful person who takes responsibility for the death of Eva Smith. In contrast, Mrs. Birling is depicted as a cold person who refuses to take responsibility for Eva Smiths death, but instead shifts the blame to Eva. In the play, the younger generation is exemplified through Sheila who is seen to mind the interests of other people in the society. However, the older generation is exemplified through her mother, Mrs. Birling whose attitude revolve around safeguarding her social status and do not appear to mind any other person other than her family and herself.
Priestley, J. B. (1945). An inspector calls; a play in three acts. New York: Dramatists Play Service
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