in A Level, English Literature, Essay Technique, Writing Skills

Here are some samples of an essay on An Inspector Calls, on the theme of responsibility. I wrote these myself as a teacher to show students an example of the standard required to get a high level at GCSE. I’ve also broken down the structure below so you can see what to put into each paragraph and how to organise all of your ideas – this is the most important thing for getting a high level in an essay!

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Question: 

How does Priestley explore the theme of responsibility in the play? 

An Inspector Calls Intro
Photo by Camille Orgel on Unsplash

EXAMPLE INTRO: 

Responsibility is a very important theme in An Inspector Calls, as the Inspector reveals one by one that all the Birling family are partly responsible for Eva’s death. Eva represents the lower classes, and Priestley uses the tragic ending of her character to spread his message about social responsibility, a message which is delivered by the Inspector himself, who acts as a mouthpiece for Priestley’s own views on socialism and equality. Overall, the audience realizes that their actions affect other people’s lives, so they are responsible for looking after and caring for everyone in society. 

An Inspector Calls: Character Revision

EXAMPLE MIDDLE PARAGRAPH: 

  • Point (one sentence that answers part of the question, your idea)
  • Evidence (quotes/references that prove your point) 
  • The technique (language features/dramatic features/structure features)
  • Explanation (analysis – how/why the evidence proves the point)
  • Development (context/alternative interpretations)
  • Link (linking back to the argument/thesis in the Intro)
Priestley uses Mr Birling’s character as an example of the selfishness of the middle classes and their lack of responsibility to others. In the play, Mr Birling believes he is only responsible for himself and his family. This is demonstrated when he says “A man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own”. This suggests he only believes he is responsible for himself and his family because when he says “mind his own business” he is showing a lack of care for other people’s problems. This is also a double entendre as it could also relate to work and business. Priestley also uses alliteration in the play to indicate Birling’s lack of care for others with the noun “man” and verb “mind”. This makes the quotation stand out and highlights that independence is a crucial part of Birling’s character. Birling also reveals his lack of care for others when he says “Community and all that nonsense” and he needed to “keep labour costs down”, as he is saying that he does not believe that everyone should look after each other. He says this in a superior and dismissive tone which indicates his smugness and shows that he thinks he is better than everyone else. This would be bad in terms of responsibility as it suggests that he doesn’t care for others as much as himself and doesn’t have any respect for the inspector or his ideas. I think Priestley demonstrates Arthur Birling in this way to represent the views of upper middle class men of that time, in 1912 when the play was set the middle classes were often capitalists and saw themselves as superior to the lower classes, who they exploited. Priestley makes the audience dislike Mr Birling and view him as selfish, which in turn makes them feel more positive about socialist attitudes, where every member of society is viewed as equal. 

Thanks for reading! If you’re stuck on An Inspector Calls and need more help, you can access our full course here.

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