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Imbalance Of Responsibility In An Inspector Calls

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Priestley presents an imbalance of responsibility within the Birling family between the two generations , with the older generation (Mr and Mrs Birling) showing a lack of responsibility and empathy towards Eva smith’s death whereas the younger generation (Sheila and Eric) hold a majority of the responsibility showing maturity and understanding which the older generation should hold ,however, they evidently do not.

In ‘An Inspector Calls’ Priestley presents the theme of responsibility as imbalanced between the older and younger generation as during act 3 of the play in the midst of the conversation between the Birlings and Gerald concerning this new idea that the inspector and his narrative could potentially be a ‘hoax’. In this scene we see that both Mr and Mrs Birling are completely won by Gerald’s theory and seem to completely forget the situation at hand. Sheila, representing the younger generation, takes complete personal responsibility by stating ‘ you’re acting as If nothing has changed’ she understands despite being a ‘hoax’ or not her actions could potentially lead another ‘Eva smith and John smith’ to their unfortunate demise.

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Sheila embodies complete growth and character development contrary to the beginning where she is presented as a naïve irresponsible young girl , addressing her parents as ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’, to addressing her parents as ‘ mother’ and ‘father’ therefore showing mental growth and maturity in the space of one evening. Priestley also presents responsibility through Mrs. Birling a seemingly mature woman who is ‘her husband’s social superior’, Mrs. Birling quite swiftly and sternly makes it apparent from the beginning of her interrogation that she does not take any responsibility and feels as though she has only done her ‘duty’ by denying Eva Smiths cry for help. Mrs. Birling quite meticulously shifts her blame and responsibility to the father of Eva smiths child who we soon and abruptly learn is her own son Eric. However, it could be argued that Mrs. Birling once acknowledging this new and ghastly situation between her son and Eva smith she attempts to take some responsibility.

Despite appearing as an ignorant and elitist cold-hearted woman in the beginning she is yet still a mother and it is only a mothers natural instinct to protect and comfort their offspring. We can interpret she attempts to take some responsibility as she works for a womans charity organization and does not input the same cold-hearted opinion and stern tone yet she begins to stutter saying ‘ (agitated) I don’t believe it. I won’t believe it . . .’. We see a change in tone from dark and harrowing to slightly warm and concerned.

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Imbalance Of Responsibility In An Inspector Calls. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from
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