An Inspector Calls
The shadow of war hovers over J.B. Priestley’s play about the suicide of a young working class woman. It was written in 1945 after World War Two, and the action takes place two years before World War One begins. An upper class family’s celebration of an engagement is interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious police inspector, who interviews each of them about their connection to the dead girl, Eva Smith. “We don’t live alone,” the inspector concludes. “We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. 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.”
“If we were all responsible for everything that happened to everybody we’d had anything to do with, it would be very awkward, wouldn’t it?” says Mr Birling. And yet each member of the family did something to Eva Smith which ultimately led to her death. So, are they all responsible? And where do we see Mr Birling’s question coming up in the news today?
Company behind Pret admits to Nazi past
The Reimann family is the second richest in Germany, with stakes in major brands like Pret and Krispy Kreme. Now they have found evidence of a dark Nazi past. How should this make us feel?
Victims remembered as Grenfell inquiry begins
What would “Justice4Grenfell” look like? The inquiry into the fire started yesterday with bereaved families remembering the 72 victims. Some desire punishment. Everyone wants the truth.
Anger over nurse’s death in royal hospital hoax
Days after being publicly ‘humiliated’ in a radio prank call, nurse Jacintha Saldanha has been found dead – apparently after taking her own life. Where does responsibility lie?
As Priestley wrote the play, Britain was planning to introduce a welfare state that could help vulnerable people like Eva Smith. But, until then, she was completely dependent on the whims of the rich. “There are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us,” says the inspector. Class, welfare and poverty are still controversial issues today.
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A new film about privileged youth has sharpened the debate about class division in modern Britain. Top jobs increasingly go to the privately educated. Whatever happened to meritocracy?
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How much help should the poor be given? A furore has built up over universal credit — a simple way of claiming benefits. The government has been accused of harking back to the 19th century.
Eva Smith’s problems are made far worse because she is a woman. When she is fired, the men who try to help her end up using her for sex, and then discard her — only then, she is pregnant and even more desperate than before. Have things improved for women? And will the #MeToo era make a difference?
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Do we need new rules for dating? The feminist revolutions of the 1900s ended centuries of strict rituals for young couples. In the #MeToo era, should we look to the past for guidance?
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BBC ‘breaking law’ with unequal pay for women
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Mr and Mrs Birling are quick to absolve themselves of any individual responsibility for Eva’s death — but the inspector repeatedly warns them that we all have a social duty to look out for one another. Terrible things will happen if we don’t. Have we learned this lesson yet? Should we?
Debate rages over Britain’s ‘broken society’
How accurate is this description? A video has gone viral showing thugs attacking two police officers. Several people passed by and refused to intervene — fuelling claims of a “broken” society.
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Why is violent crime rising? In London, a horrific streak of shootings and stabbings has left one teenager dead and multiple injured. Violent crime rates are surging across the country too.
Minister of loneliness for ‘broken society’
Can the state stop loneliness? Yesterday Britain appointed a government minister to tackle the “epidemic” blighting millions of lives — an issue dubbed the “giant evil” of our times.
The parents refuse to accept any responsibility for their part in Eva’s death. But their daughter and son, Sheila and Eric, are overwhelmed by guilt for their actions. There is hope for the next generation, suggests Priestley. How pronounced is the generation gap today?
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‘We are the victims and we are also the change’
Is a new era of youth power beginning? Around 800,000 people marched for gun control in Washington, DC, this weekend. They were led by teenagers. The youngest speaker was just nine years old.