Compare the characters of Arthur and Sheila Birling. How does Priestly get them to face up to their involvement in Eva Smith's suicide?.
An Inspector calls is deliberately set in 1912 to demonstrate Priestly's message which is "We are responsible for each other" 1912 was two years before World War one. Many people were aware that great changes were about to take place. Britain was in a state of upheaval, there were others, such as Mr Birling, thought quite complacently that they had never had things so good. Priestlys characters are involved with the social conditions of the time, Eva Smith is just one of the characters that is such a vivid example of the fate of many young women shrouded in an atmosphere of poverty. At this time social conditions depended immensely on your class. The rich and famous exploited the poor, they lived a much happier life with more social benefits than say the likes of Eva Smith. The Birlings (ruling class) are prosperous and live in a fairly large comfortable house "with good solid furniture" but then a few miles down the road, but still worlds apart when it comes to class and social matters there live millions of young women that are " counting their pennies in their dingy little back bedrooms". An example of the cruel divide between rich and poor was a tax record taken from 1911 - 1913 which suggested 87% of the countries wealth in the form of land, property, bank accounts, stocks and shares was concentrated in the hands of a mere 5% of the population.
The play was written some what 30 years after it had been set, around 1944 which was just after the second world war where he was trying to avoid the same social difficulties that lurked around WW1 involving poverty.
Priestly uses the inspector as a dramatic device to highlight a lack of social conscience amongst the rest of the characters. At the start of the play the characters are in their dining room which is brimming with wealth, instantly you can tell they are from the higher class " Good, solid furniture".