An Inspector Calls is a play written by English novelist and playwright J. B. Priestley, first performed in 1945. Set in 1912, the story unfolds in the prosperous Birling family home as they celebrate the engagement of their daughter, Sheila. The seemingly joyful occasion takes a dark turn when Inspector Goole arrives to investigate the suicide of a young working-class woman named Eva Smith. As the Inspector questions each family member, deep-rooted secrets and moral shortcomings are revealed, challenging the characters’ perceptions of responsibility and societal and familial duty.

An unconventional approach to the traditional whodunit of detective fiction, the play is a scathing critique of the class system, moral complacency, and the consequences of individual actions. Set against the backdrop of pre-World War I England, Priestley uses the Birling family as a microcosm to highlight the social issues of the time. The play’s timeless themes of social justice, responsibility, and the interconnectedness of human actions continue to resonate in contemporary society. An Inspector Calls has had numerous adaptations, including stage revivals and television productions. Its enduring popularity is a testament to its thought-provoking exploration of morality and societal responsibility.

Explore the full plot summary, an in-depth character analysis of Sheila Birling, and explanations of important quotes from An Inspector Calls.

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