Edwardian society - Sample Essay

This is not a direct question at Gerald, but more of rhetorical question, in reference to how he treated Eva Smith, using her for his lust and sexual pleasure then discarding her, leaving with a broken heart. The wickedness and weakness of Edwardian upper class men is shown as Priestly uses Gerald as an example of how they often loose the battle to contain their sexual desires, and often the victims are people such as Eva Smith.

Sybil Birling is portrayed as a cold hearted woman. As her last bit of hope, Eva Smith foresaw help from a charity which Mrs Birling was chairman of. This is the last event in the chain before Miss Smith’s demise. Mrs Birling rejected Eva Smith due to her own personal prejudice. Priestly shows the audience the cruelty towards lower class women demonstrated by Sybil Birling. During the questioning, Sybil Birling often used defensive quotes such as; “You know inspector of course my husband was lord mayor only two years ago.”

In a pathetic attempt to intimidate the inspector she uses such quotes, but the inspector is remains unfazed. During the play Sybil Birling appears to be the only member of the Birling Household who was able to withstand the inspectors intense questioning. She uses her experience in old money to dominate the dialogue, unlike her husband Author Birling. Author Birling describes himself as; “Speaking as a hard headed businessman.” But Priestly reveal him to be a coward at heart. Author Birling is a right wing conservative. He is very narrow minded and is seen to make all the wrong predictions. For example; “The titanic will never sink.”

Mr Birling was the first to be questioned by the inspector. Immediately after they began Author looked to defend himself, trying to find excuses to justify his actions. “I ought to warn you that the chief inspector is an old friend of mine.” To his surprise this has no affect on the inspector. Realising that the purpose of the inspectors visit wasn’t just to see him, he changes his tone of voice into a more helpful manner. Priestly uses Author Birling to represent the typical arrogant businessman. He brings a big presence in the board rooms; he is a rather stout fellow. His weakness and wickedness are seen as the inspector reveal how he turned Eva smith down after she requested a pay rise. This sum of money requested, was nothing to Author Birling, but he still refused to raise the wages.

The Birling family household were examined by one inspector Goole. The inspector is illustrated as a left wing middle aged man. He is seen to be a small man but offers a big presence. The inspector could be seen to be the alter-ego of Author Birling. This is noticeable throughout the whole play. There are passages which can support this such as; “Look here inspector I’m not one to have this, inspector, you’ll apologise at once.” The inspector replies; “Apologise for what doing my duty?”

This brief dialogue shows the difference in contrast between the two characters. Priestly uses the inspector not just to investigate a straight forward suicide case but to investigate society at that particular period. The inspector cross-examines each member of the Birling household; slowly building up guilt in them and making them realize their mistakes. Priestly using the inspector criticises the social order of Edwardian society. He shows the audience how the lower class citizens of Edwardian society were unjustified.

Now to conclude the essay. After answering the question, I have come to conclude the following fact; the purpose for JB Priestly writing ‘An Inspector Calls’ was so he good write to persuade. Using the inspector to represent his views on society he shows the audience the wrongs of society. Although the crimes of the Birling family were not seen to be crimes which they could be arrested for, in the eyes of society, as looking at the matter moralistically they were certainly crimes which should not have gone unpunished.