An Inspector Calls Essay Topics
English playwright J.B. Priestly’s An Inspector Calls is a drama with a great deal of sociopolitical ramifications. It can be seen as critique of capitalism or of middle-class values and Victorian morals. It also explores class and gender relations. It is also a very effective mystery, which takes place on a single night in 1912, as a man named Goole claiming to be an inspector interrogates a wealthy British family about their possible contributions to the suicide of a working-class girl. As the play progresses, each member of the family reveals that they may have been in some way responsible for her death.
Here are some good topic ideas you can use in writing an essay on this rich and fascinating play.
- The collective guilt of the Birling/Croft family represents the collective guilt of society, or of the capitalist class, for the poverty of the working class.
- The 1912 setting and reference to the Titanic reflect the theme of hubris, which is pervasive throughout the play. Characters display overconfidence or pass judgments not knowing that they are condemning themselves.
- The differences between Mr. Birling’s idea of “responsibility” and inspector Goole’s.
- Mr. Goole is not a real person, but represents the guilty conscience of the Birling and Croft families accusing themselves.
- Priestly uses the audience’s knowledge of historical events to create dramatic irony.
- The themes relating to time, history, cause and effect or “a chain of events,” are dominant throughout the play.
- Priestly creates a hybrid genre, using mystery, the supernatural and social realism.
- Priestly sets the play in Edwardian England, in many ways a very different time from now. What in the play is still relevant today? What similarities did Priestly intend his audience to notice between the time of the setting and his own time (It was 1945 when the play opened).
- Who is the most sympathetic character of the family and why? Who is the least? Why does Priestly want us to sympathize with certain characters over others? What do they represent?
- Compare this play to another play in the tradition of “drawing room” theatre, or to another play dealing with the investigation of a crime.
- How does the play contrast different ideas of morality and standards of behavior regarding sex, money, drinking, and work? How does the play portray moral hypocrisy?