An Inspector Calls Generation Gap Quotes

During the war torn era following the harrowing affairs of the Second World War, a huge diversion upon public thinking took place. People began to adjust their attitudes surrounding the idea of community and society. This dramatic revolution upon public state of mind can be strongly associated to the way in which the war had affected the British people. Undoubtedly, and inevitably, the war took a profound toll upon the deep-seated class divisions of the time. It acted as an attractive force, pulling individuals together to form a closely linked community with with no class barriers to divide people.

Everyone had to work, and fight side by side; none was ‘better’ than anyone else was. When the conflict ended in 1945, many people had finally realized the unfairness and poverty within society and were more willing to mix freely between classes. Even in theatres, there was a much wider audience involving people of all classes and even including the young.

The British citizens were preparing for another general election in 1945.

This time, though, a new socialist image was starting to emerge, gathering formidable public support. Supporters were beginning to build up confidence and a running hope for a revolutionary Socialist government to re-unite their country. One person who helped to build up, and expand, upon this socialist revolution was J.B priestly. Priestly was, himself, a strong believer in the importance of community. He had the prominent commitment, determination, and mood of hope to influence the elections of 1945. He used his ‘perceptive mind’ and ‘skillful pen’ to contribute to the gradual change to socialist government during 1945.

Get quality help now
Writer Lyla

Proficient in: Capitalism

5 (876)

“ Have been using her for a while and please believe when I tell you, she never fail. Thanks Writer Lyla you are indeed awesome ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

Priestly’s main contribution was supplied in the form of his detective play titled; ‘An Inspector Calls’. Piestly completed this masterpiece within the first weak after the war. Although ‘An Inspector Calls’ can be considered as an impressive detective story and play, it is far more renowned for the message that it carries. Priestly has intended for his play to do more than to simply entertain. The play is crafted to establish, and promote Priestly’s own socialist ideas to the whole country. Priestly has structured and composed his play to convey the message that – “we are all members of one body”, the way in which he uses dramatic and linguistic devices to do this is, both, ingenious and sophisticated.

Firstly, the time setting of the play is fundamental to the effectiveness of the play as it allows Priestly to control the passe of the play and the behavior of the characters involved. For this reason, priestly has deliberately chosen to set the play during 1912 when the disparities between rich and poor were most perceptible, and when the class barriers were most pronounced. This is apparent in the way that Birling is used to describe the lower classes such as Daisy Renton -“obviously it has nothing to do with the wretched girls suicide.” Here, the word “wretched” can be used to interpret the intensity of the class separation in 1912. Priestly uses this specific time period to exaggerate the injustice within society and also to illustrate the unacceptable antithesis between greed and poverty that results from capitalism. As well as this, the time setting allows priestly to exaggerate his portrayal of each character so that they can, each, be used as devices to symbolize aspects of capitalism and socialism to the audience. Priestly uses the 1912 setting to extensively emphasizes the unfairness within society but also, tactically, to control and maximize the intent of his, exaggerated, message.

Before we start to analyze how Priestly conveys his message, we must have a thorough understanding of it. By using the word “body” Priestly refers to the way inwich a human body operates. He relates this to the way that a community must word together to be successful, – if one part of the body/community fails then the whole body/community would collapse. Priestly consults the minds of the audience, back, to the war where everyone worked together to achieve victory. The message is put across in a powerful and persuasive metaphor to extend its impact upon the audience.

In the broadest sense, the drama and language in ‘An Inspector Calls’ conveys the message through a constant parallel of contrasting opinions and tensions administrated by the inspector. A precise context of this can be seen when we look at Mrs. and Mr. Birlings reactions to the inspectors’ death as a contrast to the inspector reactions. For example, Birling announces – “a man has to look after himself”, whereas the inspector phrases – “we are all members of one body.” The words “himself” and “one body” in these specific quotes exhibit the clear opposites in opinion. Priestly applies a diversity of unbalanced antithetical views to further support the importance within community, and disgrace within capitalism.

Priestly highlights a number of dramatic devices within his play but, to me, the inspector is by far, the most significant and influential device used. As the protagonist of the play, the inspector is described, primarily, in terms of “massiveness”‘, “solidity’ and ‘purposefulness’ (p11). This symbolizes the fact that he is an unstoppable and imperious force within the play. As well as acting as a catalyst for the evenings events, the inspectors principle effect is to act as Priestlys mouthpiece for putting across his own views and philosophies as a socialist. In doing this, he creates a social versus individual, central theme, which is at the root of the social vision underpinning the play.

Priestly uses the contrast in opinion to hint that, while capitalist values dictate that its every man for himself, the socialist vision holds that we are all collectively responsible for each other and our community. (This is symbolized by the “chain of events” thesis featured in act 1 page 14.) Priestly also uses the inspector to, passively, accuse capitalism of promoting and rationalizing human exploitation and misery. In the play these selfish values are embodied and characterized by Birling. To demonstrate this, we can look at page 15 where Mr. Birlings comments -‘if you don’t come down sharply on some people, they’d soon be asking for the earth!’ The inspector then justifies the idiocy within the comment by pointing out that – ‘its better to ask for the world than to take it’. (He implies the fact that the Birlings have taken the earth from the lower classes.) Priestly uses this brief argument to, again, emphasis the greed that capitalism brings.

We hear Birling addressing the table to set out his views of life – “a man has to make his own way” (p9). The ‘sharp’ timing of the inspectors entrance is intended, directly, to contradict and cut out Birlings attempt to transmit his capitalist values. Additionally, the inspectors, timely, entrance primes the audience; for the main action of the play. The inspector arrives offering an alternative to, both, the children and the audience, bearing across Priestlys socialist ideas and messages.

There is a refulgent description of ‘comfort’, ‘success’ and self ‘satisfaction’ at the beginning of the play. To achieve this, Priestly uses pink and intimate lighting to reinforce the initially, ‘rose tinted mood’. After the inspectors somber arrival, lighting becomes ‘brighter and harder’ as the mood progressively changes. This is done to maintain a sense of atmosphere throughout the play and, also, to build – up towards Priestlys final and absolute message. Priestly applies much contrast, irony and connotation following the inspectors’ arrival. One such connotation can be seen in the inspectors’ name – Goole. (Ghoul?) This gives a mysterious and disturbing quality. A ghoul is a spirit which takes fresh life from corpses, we could certainly argue that the inspectors’ existence is as a result of the girls’ death. The way in which the inspector is portrayed and acted also suggests that he be of an inhuman nature. This is manifest in the inspectors, often, assertive and derogatory attitude towards the Birlings’ -‘disconcerting habit to look hard at the person he addresses before speaking’ (p11). The inspectors’ dramatic entrance and exit also help to characterize an omnipotent and inhuman eminence. Priestly imbues the inspector with this, almost, ghostly peculiarity to encourage the audience to think of him as being either; an avenging angle, a time traveler, a benevolent ghost or a collective conscience. In my opinion, a collective conscience most effectively conveys Priestlys message because a conscience is representative of a motive for change. Despite this, the impression created is entirely dependent upon the intent of the acted play. Priestlys’ portrayal of the inspector as being an illusive anima is a central and crucial conveyer device in the play, allowing his message of community to hit the audience with elevated impact and effectiveness.

Priestly uses Mr. Birlings’ exaggerated, portentous personality, imperviousness and ignorance, to represent the stereotypical capitalist restrictions of the time. This is obvious from the way that he speaks, for example he boasts -“we don’t guess – we’ve had experience we know.” Birling says this, directly, after making two complete misinterpreted predictions about “peace by 1940” and about the “unsinkable titanic” (p7). Here, we see priestly using dramatic irony to mock the narrow mindedness of the capitalism, portrayed within Birling. Priestly grants no sympathy for what capitalism has done to society, this is evident in the way that Birling is used throughout the play. Contradictory to this, the inspector is portrayed as being the champion of socialism. He is there to symbolize Priestlys views. Essentially, Priestly uses biased representations of capitalism, and socialism, reflected within Birling, and inspector Goole, to prepare the audience for his conclusive message.

As well as the inspector, Priestly also uses each of the other characters as dramatic devices to, symbolically, convey his message. At the end of act one, and beginning of act two, some serious tensions within the Birling family have bean revealed. Like the titanic, some potentially disastrous cracks have appeared in the family ship. Despite this, Mr. Birling continues as if nothing is happening, sailing obliviously towards destruction. The inspector is, again, there to exploit these cracks and to find out who has learned a lesson from his visit. The most dramatic tension within the family is focused upon the divergent reactions of Mr. Birling and Shila. Mr. Birling show shows no sorrow or shame for his actions and feels little pity for the girls’ death, he is more concerned with proving himself innocent and maintaining his public reputation -“I don’t see where I come into this”, “still I can’t accept any responsibility”. In contrast to this, Shila is moved to tears of shock and guilt; the inspector is successful in making her see the consequences of her actions and influences her transformation –

” It was my own fault”. Shilas’ transformation has caused her attitude to differ enormously from that of her parents. Vitally, she is willing to learn from her mistakes -“these girls aren’t cheap labor they’re people”. In this quote, we see her trying to make her father realize what she has learnt, and to change his perceptions. Despite her failing, we she an explicit transformation in her thinking and attitude. The inspector goes through each member of the family linking them to the suicide and punishing them appropriately, depending on how they react -“if your easy with me, I’m easy with you” (p22). Here, Priestly stresses a message to the audience. It is, almost, as if he was trying to warn that – whose who are willing to change their attitudes towards society will be forgiven, but, those who persist with their old capitalist ways will be punished. This is emphasized through the inspectors’ compassion towards Shila and Eric who both confess openly, and are immediately willing to change. In opposition to this, Mr. and Mrs. Birling are impervious and refuse to confess to their crimes, therefor, they are severely punished at the end of the play.

Mr. and Mrs. Birling are representative of the older capitalist generation whilst Shila and Eric are depict the younger generation of the time. Priestly realized that, although, it was too late for the older generation of 1945 to change their attitudes for the better, there was still time for the younger generation to make realizations and to adjust their attitudes. Priestly cleverly uses Shila and Eric to emphasis the hope that he sees within the younger generation of 1945. This quote form the inspector can illustrate Priestlys’ hope -“we often do on the young ones”. Priestlys focus upon the younger generation is, in my opinion, a superb promotional tactic that further increases the long-term affect of his socialist philosophy.

The conclusion to ‘An Inspector Calls’ is, in many ways, crucial in conveying Priestlys message of community. This is where most dramatic and linguistic tactic is applied to sum up the plays’ message -“that we are all members of one body”. One such dramatic tactic used, are the multiple endings (three). This, not only, improves excitement and tension but also allows the audience to explore the moral from different perspectives, each, upholding a different dramatic impact.

To emphasize his message, Priestly uses symbolism, dramatic effect and also social realism. Before the inspector leaves, he speaks his most momentous lines of the play. He tells all the character to remember the dead girl and what they did to her. It is apparent that he wants the girls’ death to stay with them. He makes clear that they must pay for their crimes against society, just as wars pay for bad political decision -“you’ll pay a higher price still”. In this quote, he teaches people not to make the same capitalist mistake as the Birlings. This, like all the other symbolic and meaningful connotations mentioned, helps to build up towards Priestlys ultimate message concerning community.

The inspectors closing argument completes the entire message. He warns that, although, Eva/ Daisy is dead there are still many more similar to her out there -“millions of Eva and John Smiths left with us their hopes and fears all intertwined with our lives”. The word “intertwined” is used, here, to outline the fact that their lives are greatly controlled by people like Birling. This is also pointed at the audience to re-highlight the atrociousness of human exploitation. Lastly, the inspector concludes Priestlys ultimate community message within two, powerful, final sentences. He warns that -“if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire, blood and anguish”. The words -“fire”, “blood” and “anguish” are particularly powerful words, which, not only represent the wars, bridging the time gap, but also embody a religious connotation. (These words are featured in the bible). The representations within fire, blood and anguish are passed on without mention of war or religion; nevertheless, the audience automatically sees the representations given. To me, this is the most ingenious of dramatic device used by Priestly. The use of the word “taught”, seems to imply, to the audience, that they will be re-taught, by more war, unless they adjust their attitudes. The powerful connotations, representations and images created by this final speech are almost indescribable, and would have struck the 1945 audience with phenomenal impact and effect, leaving them to reflect on its meanings and to reconsider their attitudes towards society. This final speech by the inspector is the highlight of the whole play and sums up Priestlys message vividly and productively so that it sticks, firmly, to the minds of the audience.

The last two dramatic moments are the realization after ringing the police chief that there is no inspector Goole, and then everyone becomes completely baffled just after recovering believing it was a hoax, there’s a final dramatic phone call. The phone rings and everyone learns that a girl has just died on her way to the infirmary after committing suicide by drinking disinfectant. The ending of the play comes full circle as if the whole thing starts over again. This is another impressive dramatic tactic used by priestly to re-emphasize the inspectors final speech proposing that; if men will not understand the importance of community, then they will be “taught” it over and over again until they do.

Finally, Priestly keeps the play unclosed, leaving the audience to think about the messages that it conveys and to draw their own conclusions. This unclosed end to the play is used by Priestly to allow the audience to reflect upon the meaning of the play and, hopefully, to realize those aspects of their life should be changed for the good of humanity.

An Inspector Calls uses many, if not all of the essentials for a detective story. The interrogation is the central part to the whole play, used to develop the plot and keep the story running. It creates the effects required of a detective story whilst using dramatic and linguistic devices to convey a valuable message to the audience. Priestlys’ combination of reality and the extraordinary is ingenious and he uses valuable theories to help craft the detective story convention.

Cite this page

An Inspector Calls Generation Gap Quotes. (2017, Aug 06). Retrieved from

An Inspector Calls Generation Gap Quotes
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7