AQA English Literature - An Inspector Calls Essay - June 2018
An Inspector Calls Essay - AQA English Literature Exam - June 2018 GCSE Standard (Grade 9)
This is an exemplar An Inspector Calls essay - Grade 9 GCSE standard - based upon the AQA English Literature June 2018 exam question. The essay analyses the importance of social class in the play. The An Inspector Calls essay has been well structured and would achieve full marks – the equivalent of a Grade 9. The An Inspector Calls essay would take approximately 45-50 minutes to complete by a student in exam conditions
Grade 9 GCSE Essay - AQA
How does Priestley explore the importance of social class in An Inspector Calls? Write about: • some ideas about social class in the play • how Priestley presents the importance of social class
Priestley presents the importance of social class through the naivety of the upper class, by exploring the authority and rights one’s social class bestows. This is conducted through the Inspector, who is a proxy for Priestley’s social and political views.
Initially, Priestley depicts the “comfortable” life of the upper class Birling family. In the play’s opening stage directions, Sheila is described as being “very pleased with life”, which acts as a stark contrast to the “fire and blood and anguish” which the Inspector suggests society will become if people do not change their ways and take some “responsibility”. The adjective “very” emphasises Sheila’s contentedness and implies a satisfied, safe and secure way of life. Symbolically, however, it depicts a metaphorical bubble in which the upper classes live, unaware of the “anguish” just outside their door, completely alienating the lower classes and creating a callous, frugal and emotionally detached society.
Furthermore, the “fire and blood and anguish” that the Inspector mentions before he departs, could be indicative of the effort and pain that non-influential (poorer) families have to endure to exist. On the other hand, the lexical choice suggests images of hell: implying that capitalism is home to sinners and villains – perhaps referring to the fraud and exploitation which the upper classes get away with, much like the Birlings. Priestley is clearly appealing to an audience in 1945 who could bring about change. Secondly, this could also be reference to the two World Wars experienced by the audience, acting in parallel to the two deaths of Eva Smith, where society hasn’t learned from its previous mistakes.
Another reference to the importance of social class, during the Edwardian era, is the hypocrisy and double standards of the leading powers, highlighted by the moral subconscious: the Inspector. Sheila proclaims to her father that “it is better to ask for the earth that to take it”, following the revelation that he dismissed (“fired”) Eva Smith from his “works”, because she asked for “higher wages” to avoid poverty. Here the imbalance between the upper and lower classes becomes evident; perhaps a conscious effort by Priestley to get rid of social segregation and instead embrace socialism – evidenced as his proxy proclaims that he “wouldn’t know where to draw the line” between the two social classes. Furthermore, there is the villainising of Mr Birling, by his daughter, and the symbolic implication that capitalism is “taking” the beauty away from Britain and everyone in it. In addition, despite Eva Smith being, as stated by Mr Birling, a “good worker”, his social class allowed him to fire her without repercussions, because he was threatened, highlighting the vulnerability and inferiority of people from lower social classes.
Moreover, Priestley highlights a deep-rooted corruption in society in the way he exposes influential characters. Mr Birling habitually relies on his social class in order to get through life, which other social classes simply cannot do. Early on in the play, Mr Birling emphasises the importance of social class and status to him, by stating he “was an alderman for years – and Lord Mayor two years ago”; he has an impending “knighthood”; and that he “play[s] golf” with “Chief Constable, Colonel Roberts”. Each of these comments hints that there is some sort of immunity and entitlement that comes with being upper class, and that you do not need to operate within the constraints of the law. This is further emphasised by Gerald’s remark that they are all “respectable citizens” and also Mr Birling’s exploitation of his employees. This can be interpreted as Priestley’s effort to expose the sinful acts of the upper classes and regain justice for the poor. This exposure is also evidenced in the stage directions, such as when the Inspector enters the lights become “brighter and harder”, metaphorically dispelling the shadows of the wealthy and revealing their failings.
In conclusion, Priestley presents the importance of social class by comparing the two contrasting worlds that the rich and poor exist in, encouraging an audience to embrace his socialist ideals, granting a voice to those who have been marginalised.