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JB Priestly in the Play An Inspector Calls

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How does JB Priestly explore and present the theme of gender in the play ‘An Inspector Calls”?

Section 3 –
Throughout this play JB Priestly has included a range of female characters in the play, from an upper class snob, through a mature daughter and a working class girl. However Eva Smith, the working class girl, was the only character who suffered the most because of her gender, she was treated differently by all character throughout the play. She had no value in society what so ever and we’ve seen this on many different occasions, firstly when Mr.

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Birling talks about her and quotes, “We were paying the usual rates and if they didn’t like those rates, they could go work somewhere else”, this quote informs us about Mr.Birling views on working class women, in the quote he is indirectly suggesting that he doesn’t need those women to work for him, ‘they could go work somewhere else”, he is basically implying that those women aren’t important for him, he doesn’t need them, if they don’t like what he does they can go work somewhere else, this also shows the lack of respect he has for those women.

His tone of voice also tells us that he still doesn’t care or regret the fact the he sacked Eva from her job for asking for a raise. This is just one example of how lower class women were treated, but to think of it upper class women weren’t treated any better either. Even though they were upper class they only had a few more rights than the working class, only because they’re women, so gender does play an important part in the play ‘An Inspector Calls’. The theme of gender is just as important as social class and age as well because Sheila was upper class too just like Mr.Birling, Gerald and Eric but she was a lot more mature and open minded than all of this in terms of accepting responsibility for her actions, and also her attitude towards gender. Unlike the rest of the family Sheila doesn’t separate lower class women from herself and her family as she says, “But these girls aren’t cheap labour – they’re people”, to Mr.Birling, here Sheila is sticking up for Eva Smith, even though she doesn’t know Eva, she is telling her father that just because they’re lower class people doesn’t make them cheap labour, even if they’re not higher class they’re still real people.

This shows symbolism, Sheila is representing the young youth and women in general, she is taking a stand for all the lower class women who aren’t treated very well by the society, and this also comes back to JB Priestley’s message from this book that we’re all responsible for each other, and we all have to look out for each other. The theme of gender is presented to the audience as dramatic irony as well, since this play was written in 1912, the play shows how women were in that certain period of time, they didn’t have as many rights, they weren’t treated equally with men, in fact they were seen to be lower than men. However in the time that this play was written which is 1945 women had a lot more rights due to the fact that when men left the country for war, which according to Mr.Birling wasn’t supposed to happen, all the women were the people who looked after the country and kept it going, women became more interdependent and the society just grew and became a lot more open minded with their thoughts.

JB Priestly has tried to show the importance of women in the play as well in the play as well at some places but very indirectly, like in that part where the inspector says, “There are a lot of young women living that sort of existence in every city and big towns in this country, Miss Birling. If there weren’t, the factories and warehouse won’t know where to look for cheap labour.” In this quote the even though Inspector Goole is implying women like that were cheap labour, he is also suggesting that these factories and warehouses all over the country need these women, to run their business, even if they’re just women there is a lot women can do. Women are seen as low and not very important, but even then they’re just as important as men.

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