The Allegorical Message Of Capitalism Being Beaten Through The Younger Generation In An Inspector Calls

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Priestley uses the character of Sheila in An Inspector calls to represent the younger generation and how they were regularly faced with Capitalism in 1912 due to living amongst the ideals but can be easily influenced to change their ways to help society be a better place through socialism due to characters like the Inspector who is the embodiment of socialism as we know from his repetition of phrases like ‘remember what you did’ to the Birlings. The use of Sheila and Eric combined enhances the allegorical message of capitalism being beaten through the younger generation because of the use of showing Sheila’s greed and selfishness that changes through the realisation that she was partly to blame for Eva’s death that eventually changes to regret and disappointment as we know from her declarative sentences where she takes the blame saying ‘I know. I had her turned out of her job. I started it.’ We know that the younger generation are an important factor in this play as the Inspector tells us how ‘we often do with the young ones. They’re more impressionable. The use of the personal pronoun ‘we’ enhances the idea of socialists between behind the persuasion and the Inspector as one of them. The purpose of this is to show how characters can change from a capitalist mindset to a socialist one combined with the classless character of the Inspector who acts as Priestley’s mouthpiece and influences Sheila and Eric throughout the play; this is done because Priestley was dismayed at the period between world war 1 and world war 2 due to the depression, poverty and political extremism that led to him being involved in the emergence of the Commonwealth party which became the Labour party and later helped develop the Welfare state at the end of the war.

This is enforced by the dramatic contrast Sheila has; she starts off with a positive confident attitude during act 1 at her engagement celebration, that is shown through the stage directions where she talks in a “mock aggressiveness ” to Gerald and says “I should jolly well think so’. The use of the adjective ‘mock’ is effective in explaining how she was quite offended by Gerald’s talk about being away for business and the connotation of it meaning to joke or make fun of show that she has some sort of superiority over him at that time which contrasts with the normally attitude in society in the Edwardian times as men would normally have the power over women. This shows the audience that at the start Sheila was over confident, cocky and selfish but slowly became more emotional and more thoughtful which led her to start thinking about others more and have more socialist ideals as she starts to think about what she could have done better than would have made Eva’s life a lot better and without the struggle of prejudice which links to how the play is in a cyclical structure to prove Priestley’s idea of there being ‘millions and millions and millions’ of Eva Smiths and that it could happen again if people like Sheila don’t change to more socialist morals which proves the morality form of the play. Priestley’s purpose of this is to show that Sheila is different to other character in this time and foreshadows her change in attitude to a more open mindset believing in equality and being more open to the Inspector’s socialist ideas. It also links to the emergence of the suffragettes at that time who would be standing for equal rights for women at the time and would act very differently to other women, a little like Sheila.

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Later on in the play during the Inspector’s interrogations in act 1 as Sheila as beginning to be pulled into the mystery she says ‘But these girls aren’t cheap labour- they’re people’. The use of the metaphor ‘cheap labour’ is effective in showing how Sheila cannot comprehend how someone can be treated in this way by being dehumanised and mistreated even though the only difference between the two characters is class and they can be described as been very similar but are treated in exact opposites. The noun labour also connotations of pain and hard physical work for Eva as well as emotion as she is working through prejudice because of her class and gender because of Mr Birling; the idea. However, the use of the italics and the hyphen can be interpreted as countering this as it may seem like the character of Sheila is acting slightly over the top as she does not know anything about this character or the working class. This is because the use of italics has connotations of sarcasm and over emphases on the word to create a strong effect. Priestley’s purpose in this may be to enforce Sheila’s capitalist strong mindset at the start of the play in this line by making her seem mocking and like she is pretending to care when actually overall she just cares about looking like a good person in society at this moment in time. This is similar to the character of Mrs Birling who also does this at the start of the play. She shows the false idea of caring during her interrogation when she talks about the charity she is involved in called the ‘Brumley Women’s charity organisation’ which she describes as a charity to ‘which women in distress can appeal for help in various forms’ but later explains how she immediately pushed Eva away just because she wasn’t an unmarried pregnant women. She explains how it was ‘simply a piece of gross impertinence… and naturally that was one of the things that prejudiced me against her case’. The use of the adjective ‘prejudiced’ is effective in portraying the similarity in Sheila and Mrs Birling due to the irony in it because of how Mrs Birling is actually being prejudice to Eva but doesn’t know it due to her strongly held capitalist views. These firm views can be interpreted as possibly only being so strong because of how she was brought up compared to Eva. The overall purpose of having these two characters with similar attitudes at the start but very different ones at the end may be to enforce how the younger character of Sheila changes throughout the play from socialist ideas to capitalist ones. Also how it is possible to change as Priestley wants to prove how in the Edwardian times the younger generation were easily influenced and could be taught that a better society can be made through equality but the older generation were harder to persuade due to being stuck in their ways so the audience in this time shoulder focus on teacher the younger generation to make Britain a better place to live in.

After this, during act two part 4 where he link is introduced, she starts to become more negative as she begins to regret her actions and change her viewpoint of the world around and Priestley starts to describe her as acting ‘miserably’ as she is affected by the Inspector. The use of this adjective is affective in portraying how what the Inspector says has not just changed how she feels inside but also her actions and lack of control over how she is acting. This is due to the connotations the adverb has that include portraying how she’s really rather not be in this situation and its so horrible she cannot think of anything that would make her life better even her class, influence and wealth. However, this can be interpreted as her capitalist ideas coming out, rather than her regretting her previous actions of making Eva lose her job due to jealous, greed and need for superiority because of the focus on her self it brings rather than focusing on being more of a caring person to make society a better place; so therefore it can be argued that she hasn’t actually changed her capitalist ideas to socialist ones at this point but may later on.

Finally the conclusion in act 3 shows us how Sheila’s view finally seems to have changed from her selfish, overconfident attitude to a more emotionally affected understanding character who seems to get the inspectors message which Priestley writes as his mouthpiece. She is only one who seems to be affected as she quotes the Inspectors words when saying ‘’No, because I remember what he said, How he looked, and what he made me feel. Fire and blood and anguish. And it frightens me the way you talk’. The use of this complex sentence is effective in imposing how she is struggling to even form sentences correctly in the way she did before and the use of Priestley even changing the way she speaks highlights her change hugely so the audience can clearly see the message. The use of quoting the listing and triplet ‘fire and blood and anguish’ is effective in showing how the religious connotations in the inspectors words obviously subconsciously affected her as the broken sentence left by itself shows how ultimately she seems scared of what to come. This then concludes with the final foreshadowing of the future wars to be which counters Mr Birling’s dramatically ironic phrase of ‘silly little war scares’ phrase as these words have connotations of pain and suffering. The message is emphasised of Sheila’s understanding of what she has learnt which the audience will also understand do to the morality form of the play.


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