The Challenges of Working Class in the Characters of Inspector Calls

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

In An Inspector Calls, Edna, only having less than 30 words in the entire play, is still a minor yet significant character. In an inspector calls, every character is representing a place in society, where Priestley Is presenting Edna as the mistreatment of the working class as she is the maid of the house. It is Edna who changes the lighting from “Pink and intimate” to “Bright and harder” when Inspector Goole arrives, he has a huge impact as the light changes from the “rose tinted glasses” the Birlings live their lives in, to bright and harder light as in an interrogation room where all the truths are to be revealed. The fact that Edna is the one that changes the lighting of the room is important as Priestley could be suggesting that it will be the working class who make the middle and upper classes learn the truth of their actions. In fact this is what we see in the play, the role of Eva Smith, who is part of the working class, is used to challenge the Birlings and Gerald who have to face the consequences of their actions, and it is Edna who let in the inspector and changing the lighting which signifies this challenge towards the Birlings and Gerald.

Birlings communication to Edna shows a lot of disrespect. Birling says “Shows him in here. Give us some more light” to Edna, these short sentences include imperatives and shows no attempt of politeness by Birling, he expects that his orders should be followed instantly with no issues, these highlight Eva’s pressure of the working class to obey the orders of the middle/upper class. In 1912 maids were more common than in 1946 when the play was first performed. To this audience, Ednas deliberate presence feels old fashioned and unneeded, this reminds the audience of the hard time that the working class faced and getting paid very less and working in disgusting conditions. On stage the tasks Edna is asked to do, Open door for Inspector, pour the port, serve food, could have easily be done by the Birling Family, this demonstrates that the Birlings only consider her as an employee and even go to an extent where the Birlings intrude on her personal life, Mrs Birling says “Edna will go I asked her to wait up” the Birlings simply don’t care about intruding on Ednas life as she would possibly go to sleep at this time but instead has to stay and deal with the drama involving Eva Smith. Furthermore she is not involved in any talk about business and toasts made by the family. The 1946 audience would consider the treatment as very unusual and the audience would not want to become like the Birlings and their adopt their views. When Inspector Goole says “Theres millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths”. Here, Evas voice is heard, however Ednas is not, this could symbolise the lack of freedom the working class.

Sheila also plays an important role even though she does not play a major role in the play. Her change in character is what makes her play a much more vital role. At the start of the play she seems more relaxed. After receiving the ring from Gerald, it is then when she “feels engaged” it shows that she really needs expensive jewellery, and therefore making her materialistic and and aware of her appearance and opinions of others of her. Sheila was part of the chain of events that drove Eva Smith to her suicide, this was because of jealousy as Eva looked better in a dress. Sheila said “I told him that if they didn’t get rid of the girl, I’d never go near the place again” Sheila uses her influence to get rid of Eva Smith by delivering this impolite statement. This got Eva Smith fired. However, compared to the other characters Sheila does show a sign of remorse as shown by the stage direction “as if she’s been crying”, the author demonstrates that younger people (women mainly) can learn from what they’ve done. This shows hope for future society, that they should care for everyone, even if they are lower class. Sheila gains more confidence throughout the whole play to the point where she stands up to her mother to stop before it was too late, and even gives back Geralds engagement ring when she finds out Gerald cheated which shows that she isn’t materialistic anymore and this is why she plays a vital role in an Inspector calls.


Read more