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An Inspector Calls - Themes
One of the themes in An Inspector Calls is workers' rights.

An Inspector Calls - Themes

This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at themes in An Inspector Calls by JB Priestley.

Theme in a work of literature is shown through multiple means. Often a theme is like a thread linking together dialogue, setting, characters and plot. Sometimes the theme will appear as a topic which arises several times during a novel or play. Perhaps it will be an issue which causes argument and disagreement among the characters. Sometimes a theme will be only subtly suggested through choice of vocabulary, as a collection of related words used by a particular character or in the narration.

Although theme is expressed through the text, it is not contained there. Theme is also how the author communicates with the reader, asking the reader to think about his or her own ideas and beliefs.

Readers engage with the text through reflecting on the themes, even subconsciously. If a text, or one of its characters, evokes an emotion, it is often through the author’s creation of psychological conflict in the exploration of a theme or themes.

An Inspector Calls deals with themes of class, social change, workers’ rights, responsibility, gender and generational differences. Each of the themes is interrelated, building a complex web of meaning in the play. For each character is defined by his or her class, attitude to society, belief (or not) in workers’ rights — and the ability to affect these, by gender and by age. Their differences appear in their conversations with each other and with the Inspector and also determine their openness to the truths about themselves and their behaviour exposed by his interrogation.

Read the questions below and test your knowledge of the themes of An Inspector Calls.

In the final act, Eric and Sheila are deeply dissatisfied with the willingness of their parents to continue with their lives as if nothing has changed. Their dissatisfaction is most closely related to which of the following themes?
Differences between the generations
Workers' rights
J. B. Priestley holds out the hope of change if younger generations abandon the deeply-held prejudices with which they have been raised
Which of the following events is related to workers' rights?
Gerald makes 'Daisy Renton' his mistress
Eva is dismissed by Mr Birling
Eva refuses Eric's money
Gerald discovers that Inspector Goole is unknown to the police force
Eva loses her job for being considered a ringleader, or 'leading operator' in Mr Birling's words, in the strike for higher wages
Which of the following best demonstrates the relationship between wealth and class in the play?
Marriages in the play are between people who are mismatched in class as well as wealth
Eric is working class, but wealthy
The maid, Edna, hopes to marry Gerald
Eva Smith can only marry if she finds a wealthy, working-class man
Mrs Birling is of a higher social class and considers herself superior to her husband. Although very successful financially, Mr Birling exhibits anxiety at Gerald's greater social standing and the implications of Sheila's marriage into the Croft family. Possession of wealth does not guarantee acceptance by those of a higher class
How does Eva's gender contribute to her troubled life?
No work was available to women
A male worker could not be sacked for going on strike
After the initial dismissals, Eva's gender leaves her vulnerable to men who seek out desperate women for sex
Eva's gender makes no difference to the plot
Being refused charity during her pregnancy is presented by the Inspector as the final humiliation pushing Eva towards suicide
Eric Birling is a disappointment to his family. His drinking and disreputable behaviour invites his family to lecture him frequently on which of the following themes?
Political activity
Careless driving
Eric is expected to take over the family business and to hold the same values as his father
What is suggested by the Inspector's statement, 'And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish'?
Responsibility is a nice idea, but cannot be enforced
Responsibility means facing the inevitable consequences of one's actions, in one form or another
Responsibility means fighting for one's country
Those who try to escape their responsibilities will be punished in prison
The Inspector states that all human beings are responsible for one another, not merely for those who are most similar or familiar, and that this truth is so powerful that a failure to learn the lesson willingly will result in learning it through the most unpleasant circumstances. His language evokes images of revolution as well as Biblical ideas of judgement
Eva Smith's death is caused by ...
the attitudes and behaviours of wealthy people
her precarious work situation
the relative powerlessness of her gender
all of the above
Class, gender and the lack of protection for workers each contribute to Eva's death
Mrs Birling's treatment of Eva Smith is expressive of which themes in the text?
All of the above
Mrs Birling refers to Eva Smith as 'impertinent' and a 'girl of that sort' (i.e. Eva is shameless and does not know her place in society). When Eva Smith seeks financial help from Mrs Birling's committee, Mrs Birling insists that the father of Eva's unborn child should take responsibility for his own actions and she therefore refuses to help
Why are Gerald and Eric both able to treat Eva Smith as disposable?
Their wealth, social status and gender give them greater power over her
The two men treat all women as disposable
In early-twentieth-century Britain, there were no laws to protect female employees
Both men loved Eva Smith and behaved responsibly towards her
Although each man claims to have cared for Eva (or 'Daisy'), they both believed her difficulties could easily be solved with occasional gifts of money
Sheila's involvement in Eva's fate is NOT due to which of the following:
Sheila's anger that a poor woman might dare to laugh at her
The power Sheila holds through her family's wealth
Eva's poor customer service skills
The difference in social status between the two women
Sheila threatens to stop shopping at Milwards and to persuade her mother to do the same unless they get rid of Eva
You can find more about this topic by visiting BBC Bitesize - Themes

Author:  Sheri Smith

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