An Inspector Calls


J. B. Priestley

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Wealth, Power, and Influence Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Wealth, Power, and Influence Theme Icon
Blame and Responsibility Theme Icon
Public versus Private Theme Icon
Class Politics Theme Icon
Morality and Legality Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in An Inspector Calls, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Wealth, Power, and Influence Theme Icon

The Birlings are a family of wealth and power, who take pride in their high social position. Mr. Birling is a successful businessman, and the family inhabits a nice home with a maid (and likely other servants). The play begins with the family celebrating and feeling generally pleased with themselves and their fortunate circumstance. Throughout the Inspector’s investigation, however, it comes out that several of the Birlings have used their power and influence immorally, in disempowering and worsening the position of a girl from a lower class: Mr. Birling used his high professional position to force Eva Smith out of his factory when she led a faction of workers in demanding a raise; Sheila, in a bad temper, used her social status and her family’s reputation to have the girl fired from Milward’s; Mrs. Birling used her influence in the Women’s Charity Organization to deny the girl monetary aid. Both Sheila and Mrs. Birling acted upon petty motivations in injuring the girl; Mr. Birling acted upon selfish, capitalist motivations.

Throughout the play, as these acts are revealed, the Birlings’ social status becomes a point of conflict amongst members of the family, as the children grow ashamed of their family’s ability to use their influence immorally and the parents remain proud of their social and economic position and do not understand their children’s concern.

The play demonstrates the corruption implicit within a capitalist economy in which wealth and influence are concentrated in a small portion of the population. The few wealthy people at the top maintain the social hierarchy in order to retain their high position, and have the power, on a petty whim, to push the powerless even further down the ladder. And, in the conflict at the end of the play between the younger and older members of the Birlings, it becomes clear that as the powerful settle into their power, they become blind to the possibility that they may be acting immorally, seeing themselves as naturally deserving of their positions and therefore of their actions as being natural and right (as opposed to selfish attempts to maintain the status quo that puts them at the top).

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Wealth, Power, and Influence ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Wealth, Power, and Influence appears in each act of An Inspector Calls. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Wealth, Power, and Influence Quotes in An Inspector Calls

Below you will find the important quotes in An Inspector Calls related to the theme of Wealth, Power, and Influence.
Act 1 Quotes

Birling: It’s a free country, I told them.
Eric: It isn’t if you can’t go and work somewhere else.

Related Characters: Arthur Birling (speaker), Eric (speaker), Eva Smith
Related Symbols: Eva Smith
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

Gerald: We’re respectable citizens and not dangerous criminals.
Inspector: Sometimes there isn’t as much difference as you think.

Related Characters: Gerald Croft (speaker), Inspector Goole (speaker)
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2 Quotes

You know, of course, that my husband was Lord Mayor only two years ago and that he’s still a magistrate?

Related Characters: Mrs. Birling (speaker), Arthur Birling
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

We’ve no excuse now for putting on airs.

Related Characters: Sheila (speaker)
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis: