Priestley uses “An Inspector Calls” as a political diatribe to critique the 1920 society and more specifically Capitalism

Priestley uses “An Inspector Calls” as a political diatribe to critique the 1920 society and more specifically Capitalism. The use of the play is allegorical as the characters are symbolic of various things including politics and moral values. More specifically. Eva Smith is used to present women of the working and lower classes who fell victim to the immorality of society at the time.

With reference to Eva Smith / Daisy Renton, Priestley uses her name metaphorically. The noun “Eva” has links to Eve from “the Garden of Eden” and much like the biblical story where Eva is too corrupted by the snake and ruined by the Birlings, “died in agony”. Additionally, the surname “Smith” is the most commonly used surname in Britain and therefore Priestley subtly implies that many women are subject to mistreatment as a result of capitalist ideals.

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Moreover, the use of the noun “Daisy” is symbolic of purity and innocence and readers see that innocence is also ruined at the hands of the Birlings and upper class individualism. When placed alongside the surname “Renton” which is a play on the word “renting”, a word used in 1912 when hiring / paying for a prostitute, the name becomes its own oxymoron and another means by which Priestley critiques Capitalism. Renting also literally means “pay to use”, “hire” there is a subtle link to the language Gerald uses when he uses a lexical field associated with the workplace to describe Daisy, “install” “business”. This dehumanization further enhances the disparity between the two classes.

From the outset of the play, Eva is dehumanized. Gerald refers to her as “fresh” and the connotations of this adjective suggest that she is vulnerable and he can use her to amuse himself. However, the literal meanings are more harrowing: newly produced, newly obtained, not spoiled. As an audience, the phrase “fresh meat” seems appropriate here and presents Eva as defenceless. Mrs. Birling align herself with Gerald in this regard when she claims, “as if a girl of that sort would ever refuse money” and “girls of that class”.The repetition of the determiner “that” indicates disdain for lower class women but also a total lack of understanding on Mrs. Birling’s behalf. Furthermore, it would appear also to ba a huge generalization about the characteristics and values of those less fortunate.

Unfortunately, in Eric’s admission of his role in the suicide her refers to Eva as a “good sport”. Again, if readers take the word “Sport” literally then it would indicate that his involvement with Eva involved
physical exertion for entertainment and / or success or pleasure derived from an activity. When added to the list of adjectives “penniless”, “friendless”, “desperate” then Priestley emotively emphasises the frantic state in which Eva defencelessly finds herself. In relationship to propaganda, the use of Eva Smith / Daisy Renton forces the audience to feel uncomfortable and arguably favour socialism as a means to improve society.

Priestley uses the incident with Eric as an extended metaphor showing how Capitalism abuses the poor/ working classes. The language used frightens the audience, “when a chap easily turns nasty”. The utilisation of the adverb “easily” has implications that this type of behaviour is almost common place – therefore readers wonder if the conservative Party and their ideals too are used in perhaps a trivial manner, at the expense of the lower classes.

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