The Importance of Taking Responsibility Within Inspector Goole's Messages

Priestley explores the idea of responsibility with his use of foils. In the play, we see lots of views and opinions contrast. For example, Inspector Goole acts as a foil for Mr Birling. Goole tells the family and the audience ‘We members of one body. We are responsible for each other.’ Here the Inspector is telling us to take care of each other. The sentence ‘We are responsible for each other’ opposes Birling’s first point at the beginning of the play ‘a man has to look after himself’ which highlights selfish capitalist views. The sentence ‘We are members of one body’ contrasts to Birling’s sarcastic ‘as we were all mixed up like bees in a hive.’ at the beginning. The irony within the simile is that bees can represent unity and they take responsibility for each other especially their queen. Priestley uses Birling’s points to show the reality of the world he lived in and Goole’s points to present a solution to problems and to teach the audience that taking responsibility for each other is important for the society to improve. Goole presents Priestley’s socialist views and gives warnings of what could happen if society doesn’t change. He is assertive and presented with a person of authority. He takes charge of the dinner and interrogates each member without actually placing the blame on either one telling them ‘each of you helped to kill her’ which shares the blame between them. Priestley does this to get the audience to understand the role each family member played in Eva’s death and to highlight that little selfish actions can lead to fatal consequences like World War to which he described as ‘fire, blood and anguish’. The 1946 audience had already lived through the World War so they were more likely to listen to Priestley as they wanted to prevent more wars.

Priestley shows the difference between the two generations by portraying the younger generation as childish at first. This is to highlight their character development throughout the play. He also does it to show how what time and generation you are born in can affect how people respond to responsibility. For example, Sheila realised her parents are different from what she thought they were and no longer cared about social rules and instead follows Goole’s advice, takes responsibility and urges her parents and Gerald to do the same. Birling refuses to accept any responsibility despite Goole’s teachings. He openly declares ‘I can’t accept any responsibility’ and claims the role he played in too little to have an effect in her death. Birling’s character is consistent from the beginning to the and he never once stops being selfish. His dramatic function is to represent capitalism and how it prevents the upper-class from taking responsibility. 

Overall, throught the play Priestley uses different forms to show the importance of taking responsibility. He does it throught the image of inspector Goole, throught the conflict between generations, he uses time to show the importance of taking responsibility and stage lighting to portray the importance of responsibility. The upper-class present perfect facades to the world but if you look closely all you can see is corruption and lack of responsibility. This would have really resonated with the mostly upper-class audience because they might be making the same mistakes as the Birling family so watching the play makes them realise the importance of responsibility and motivates them to start taking responsibility.

07 July 2022
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