Priestly The Theme Of Responsibility English Literature Essay

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Priestly was born in what he described as an "ultra-respectable" suburb of Bradford. His father was a headteacher whilst his mother died young. On leaving grammer school Priestly worked in the wool trade of his native city, but had ambitions to become a writer. He was to draw memories of Bradford in many of the works he wrote after he had moved south. Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating public or state ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and society characterized by equality for all individuals, with a fair method of compensation.

Responsibility is when you're in charge of something e.g. looking after someone, you're responsible if something goes wrong.

We meet the Birling family all happy and joyful from their celebration and then an hour later being sad and distraught. They are a rich family who owns a respectable and fairly big company, which is the main reason for their wealth. The novel is set just after the Second World War.

Mr. Birling is the father and head of the Birling family and is the owner of a large company. He knows Eva Smith because she used to work at his factory but was the main culprit for a group of women going on strike demanding for a pay rise. He didn't allow it and sacked her. He does not believe he is responsible for "Eva Smiths" death, he says "Still I can't accept responsibility. If we were all responsible for everything that happened to everybody we'd had anything to do with it would be awkward, wouldn't it". In addition to this he is very angry at the Inspectors persistent questioning of him and the rest of the Birling family, he says "Possibly. But you weren't asked to come here to talk to me about my responsibilities". He blames Eric for the death of Eva Smith as he finds out Eric's involvement in all this. "[angrily to Eric]: You're the one I blame for this". He also believes Eric should be like him and take responsibility for what he has done and be more mature and he says "It's about time you learnt to face a few responsibilities".

Sheila is the daughter of Mr and Mrs Birling; at the start of the novel the audience believe she is a kind, playful and happy girl who has no problems in her life.

She knows Eva Smith as she got her sacked from her job at Millwards because she was laughing at her in a dress and recognizes the picture the Inspector shows her, as soon as that happens she runs out of the room crying.

Sheila believes that she is responsible for Eva Smith killing herself. She also believes everyone in the family had some part in killing Eva Smith, she says "And probably between us we killed her", this angers Mr and Mrs Birling as they believe they are not to blame and believe she is being childish. After all of this the audience see that Sheila is an emotional young girl who believes she is responsible and she wishes she had been more sensible and not taken any notice of Eva Smith at Millwards.

What makes Sheila feel even worse is when she hears that Gerald was seeing Daisy Renton (Eva Smith) behind her back and betraying her and lying just before they are about to get engaged.

Sheila also believes that if Eva Smith had been uglier she wouldn't of got her sacked she says, "If she'd been some miserable plain little creature, I don't suppose I'd have done it". This is still no excuse for what she did, she should take more responsibility because it was her fault for Eva losing her job not anyone else's fault and the Inspector points that out.

Gerald is the fiancé of Sheila and his father owns the rival company to Mr. Birling.

The audience think that Gerald is rich, confident and a charming type of person.

He does not know a Eva Smith however he does know a Daisy Renton who is really Eva Smith but she changed her name. He had an affair with her and gave her money behind Sheila's back, and the whole of one summer her stayed away from Sheila whilst he was concentrating on Daisy Renton.

As Mr.Birling is being interviewed, Gerald is present and supports Mr.Birling with some of the things he says to the Inspector. He also believes the questions the Inspector is asking them are not relevant to the death of Eva Smith and he makes this clear to the Inspector, he says "And I don't really see that this inquiry gets you anywhere, Inspector".

As the Inspector is questioning Mr.Birling he also says "After all, y'know, we're respectable citizens and not criminals", as the Inspector finishes questioning Gerald this view changes and Gerald finds it too much as he is too upset so he has to go for a walk. Before he does this Sheila gives him her engagement ring as if to say it's over and then he leaves. After all of this Gerald believes he is responsible and that is why is too upset and has to leave.

Mrs.Birling is the mother of the family and is the head of a local help centre for women. At the start of the novel the audience believe Mrs Birling to be calm, obedient and higher up in the family than Mr Birling but this is not the case.

She knows a girl who called herself Mrs Birling; this angered the real Mrs Birling because she thought it was outrageous and she was angry with the girl, therefore she didn't give her any help that the girl desperately needed and turned her away.

In addition to this Mrs Birling believes she did her duty by saying to the Inspector "I consider I did my duty". She also believes she has nothing to be ashamed of but the others do as she says again to the Inspector "Unlike the other three, I did nothing I'm ashamed of".

Mrs Birling does not believe she is responsible for Eva Smith killing herself and believes the girl only had herself to blame. Before she finds out the terrible truth near the end of the scene she says, "I'll tell you what I told her. Go and look for the father of the child. It's his responsibility". However this view changes as she finds out who the real father is and she is shocked and says to the Inspector that she was wrong for saying it, it's a different matter when its her own family and not someone else because her family are perfect in her eyes.

Eric is the son of Mr and Mrs Birling. At the start of the novel the audience believes that Eric is enthusiastic, young and an alcoholic and believe he likes to have a good drink without his parents even blinking an eyelid. Eric knows a girl called Daisy Renton, he met her at a bar in town. He gets drunk one night and gets Daisy Renton pregnant which makes Daisy Renton call herself Mrs Birling, which later causes the trouble with the real Mrs Birling.

Eric has the same view as Sheila and believes that he is the main reason why the girl killed herself and he gets annoyed when his parents try to deny the allegations. Eric also believes that if his dad hadn't of sacked Eva in the first place none of it would have happened and she would still be alive. He says to the Inspector "He could have kept her on instead of throwing her out". However Mr and Mrs Birling become angry yet again when they find out the truth about him and Daisy Renton and they hold Eric responsible for all the trouble and for the girls death.

The Inspector is a straight forward, no-nonsense character who we first meet half way through the first scene as he comes to the door after the family are celebrating the engagement of Sheila and Gerald. His persistent questioning is good and gets him very far in finding out the truth and answers from the family however this persistent questioning make the family angry. The Inspector believes everyone in the family is to blame for Eva Smith killing herself and he says this to all of them "This girl killed herself and died a horrible death. But each of you helped to kill her", this puts the responsibility on all members of the family and doesn't single out anyone.

As the family argue at one of the points in the novel the Inspector doesn't want to waste time and says "You'll all be able to divide the responsibility between you", this is a humorous answer that the Inspector gives the family to hold them responsible.

As the Inspector leaves, the family try to find out who he really is and wonder if he is a fake so they phone the police station and mortuary to see if there is an Inspector Goole and if there is a dead body at the mortuary. After that they find out that they are safe and try and figure out who he really was. I believe he is a real person who had done a lot of research and used it against the family to make them slip up and speak out.

In conclusion I feel that Mrs Birling is the most responsible for Eva Smith killing herself because the girl needed her help at the time she needed it the most. I believe this drove Eva Smith to the end, as she believed that life wasn't worth living as she killed herself. J.B Priestly makes Mrs Birling seem very full of herself as if she's better than everyone else not just in general but in the family aswell. I believe this because she decides who the help center helps and who they don't, when they should be helping everyone they can no matter what. I also believe that the other members of the family are responsible for Eva Smith killing herself as they caused little things that hurt Eva Smith but not as much as Mrs Birling because none of the families actions were capable enough for someone to kill themselves.

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