He believes in inequality depending on wealth and thus also social status. The Inspector is very ‘left wing’ and believes in equality of all people no matter the status. He wants social change and believes in greater liberty, he also believes that everything we do has an effect on someone else. We have to take responsibilities for our actions. “We do not live alone, we are members of one body.” The Inspector makes his views known very obviously. When Mr Birling asks The Inspector if he wanted any port, or a little whiskey, the Inspector turns it down by saying ‘No, thank you, I’m on duty.’ This shows that the Inspector was not going to show any signs of ‘class’ or ‘status’.
He treated everyone the same, equally. The Inspector was not moved, touched or in any way ‘changed’ by the statement of Mr Birling that he was an “alderman for years- and Lord Mayor two years ago” and that he is still on the bench. He didn’t regard Mr Birling as anyone more important than everyone else. The Inspector incessantly contradicts everything Mr Birling says and just wipes off every boast that Mr Birling can come up with as if it were nothing and does not conform to any of Mr Birling’s comments on class. The Inspector in that sense is classless. Nevertheless, the Inspector is representing Priestly’s socialist views on community and society. The reality that he interrupts, pauses, repeats and talks about sex, politics and prostitutes is very far from the norm in that period.
These are all Socialist views and are very left wing. We can tell that Priestly is a Socialist and uses the Inspector to embody his views on Capitalism and Socialism. By treating everyone equally and not responding to any comments made on class, he composes himself to a socialist view. Socialists are ‘radical reformers’; they strive for social change and want greater liberty. Mr Birling’s views are in profound contrast to that of the Inspectors. He is wedged between power and money. Immovable. Therefore his views are very Capitalist. He does not believe in equality for all. All he cares about is health, money and his family. With his money goes status and Mr Birling is very insecure about his social status.
Mr Birling shows a total lack of concern about Eva Smiths death. He calls her a “wretched girl” when he talks about her suicide being no responsibility of his. He is very concerned at protecting his family at any costs. He tells his children to leave the room when the Inspector is explaining and questioning about the death of Eva Smith. This act of protection shows that he only cares about his family and as we already know his money and business. He is not concerned for the poor and more specifically his workers.
“There is nothing mysterious – or scandalous about this business -…It’s a perfectly straight forward case, and as it happened more than nearly eighteen months ago, obviously it has nothing to do with this wretched girls suicide.” He regards business more important than people. “…If they didn’t like those rates, they could go and work somewhere else.” Mr Birling feels that he should except no responsibility for Eva Smith as whatever happened to her was her doing and her fault. His views are very traditional and does not believe in a community. He is against all Socialist views. Mr Birling is shown to be ignorant about the future.
By using the tool of hindsight, Priestly was able to show the ignorance of some characters and intelligence of others by the various comments and predictions made. He was able to show how the way some people think was Communist and centred around the idea of only looking out for yourself no matter how many people you have to make suffer to achieve that goal; and the way others were Socialists and cared about looking after the community and helping people in a society of equality. . He was also able to add things that were very ironic which added to the effect of the play.
J.B Priestly uses dramatic irony to sum up Mr Birlings ignorance. We see that he makes many predictions about the future which are incorrect. For example, strikes had been going on since the 1900’s and people were very unhappy, with social unrest and employees demanding shorter hours and higher wages. By 1911 there were national violent strikes. Mr Birling says that the strikes will end soon but they don’t and still evidently go on today. Mr Birling also made reference to aeroplanes, “In a year or two we’ll have aeroplanes that will be able to go anywhere” but it took a lot longer than the suggested time. He says “…the Titanic – she sails next week-forty six thousand eight hundred tons…and unsinkable” The Titanic sunk on it’s first journey.
It is effective dramatic irony when Priestly shows Mr Birling stating “let’s say in 1940…you’ll be living in a world that’ll have forgotten all these Capital verses Labour agitations and all these silly little war scares. There’ll be peace and prosperity and rapid progress everywhere.” In 1940, five years before this book was written, World War 2 was just beginning. There is no peace and prosperity and ‘rapid progress.’ Ironically every view he has is known to the audience to be false. Mr Birling has immense anticipation about what the future holds for him as this also effects his own business. This irony that is shown has the effect of making the audience ignore Mr Birling and his ideologies.
Arthur Birling endeavours to keep labour costs down. “It is my duty to keep labour costs down, and if I’d agreed to this demand for a new rate we would have added about 12% to our labour costs.” This shows he is a ‘hard headed’ business man and that the only thing he is interested in is his business and money. We can see by this that Priestly obviously very anti-Capitalist. He opposes all that Mr Birling has to say and rejects all Capitalist views that are put his way.
The Inspector feels that the Birling’s are all responsible for the death of Eva Smith. He keeps relating back to the pain and suffering Eva Smith endured and used guilt as a major part of trying to get the Birling’s to feel responsible for the death of Eva Smith. He says various things to Sheila and Mr Birling in act1 to demonstrate what he thinks and who he feels is responsible for the suicide of Eva Smith. The Inspector states after Mr Birling says that Sheila and the rest can’t be much help “The girls dead though” Sheila replies “…You talk as if we were responsible.” He also disagrees with Mr Birling’s assumption that his discharge of her nearly 18 months ago had nothing to do with Eva Smiths suicide, “Obviously it has nothing to do with the wretched girls suicide” ” No, sir. I can’t agree with you there.” He thinks it was all down to the Birling’s and Gerald, the blame partly shared but partly specific to each of the members adding to the guilt.