Responsibility In J. B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls

498 Words2 Pages
How is the theme of responsibility presented in act 1 of An Inspector Calls?

The play ‘An Inspector Calls’ is set in a turbulent 1912 filled with threats of war and catastrophe. Priestley used this play to send a message to the generations in 1945 about how each one of them caused the war, and how we are all responsible for each other. There are many ways responsibility is presented within each character, depending on their generation, gender and class.

Responsibility is originally presented as something for someone else. Early in the play, Mr Birling says that it’s time Eric ‘learnt to take a few responsibilities’ this is ironic as later in the play, he says that he ‘cannot take any responsibilities.’ This shows us that he thinks that responsibilities are for anyone but him, and preferably the younger generation. This reflects the capitalist views of the country pre-ww1, as when the war began to start, only the younger men were seen as having to do anything, particularly, the young, non upper class men. Birling seems to reflect this ideology greatly.
…show more content…
She begins with the same attitude as Birling, seen clearly in the quote, ‘you talk as if we were responsible’. At this point, we can see that she is impressionable and has clearly taken on her father’s beliefs. However, when the inspector arrives, after Sheila joins the conversation, and begins to hear what she has possibly done, her rapid change in maturity and responsibility begins to change into guilt. We can see this in the quote ‘so I’m really responsible?’ She may have taken on this change in empathy to Eva Smith, as they are both young women, placing them low in the class system. This therefore shows us that Sheila, and the entire youth, may have the capability to mature. And at the end of the act, we see that Sheila and Birling maturity and responsibility levels have swapped, making Sheila his moral
Open Document