English Literature



An Inspector Calls


How is socialism represented in "An Inspector Calls" ?

3 years ago


2 Replies




Salvatore Langworth

2 Answers

Sarah B Profile Picture
Sarah B Verified Sherpa Tutor ✓

An enthusiastic English teacher with a proven success rate| EAL+SEN

3 reviews


When thinking about this question it is important to not that Priestley was a socialist. Socialists believe that capitalists (such as Mr Birling) benefit the rich over the poor. Socialism is based on giving power and rights to the working class (such as Eva Smith, working in the factory). Socialists strongly support unions, organisations that protect workers’ rights.

You should also make sure that you understand the critical context of the play.

During the 1930s Priestley became very concerned about the consequences of social inequality in Britain, and in 1942 Priestley and others set up a new political party, the Common Wealth Party, which argued for public ownership of land, greater democracy, and a new 'morality' in politics.

The party merged with the Labour Party in 1945. Priestley was influential in developing the idea of the Welfare State which began to be put into place at the end of the war. By 1945, socialism was a fresh and very popular movement. In the UK general election of 1945, held two months after the end of the Second World War in Europe, the Labour Party beat Winston Churchill's Conservatives, winning a majority of seats for the first time in British election history. Priestley, along with nearly 12 million other Britons, voted for Labour.

I hope this helps.

I'm available for 1:1 private online tuition!

Click here to view my profile and arrange a free introduction.
Susie W Profile Picture
Susie W Verified Sherpa Tutor ✓

Oxford-educated expert English teacher. Jump up the grades with me!

2 reviews

Hi there,

Sarah's answer above gives you a great answer about the specific Historical and Political context for the play, so I won't repeat that.

But maybe you would find it useful to think about applying those details to these specific bits of the play:

  • The Inspector's final speech, which contains almost the only metaphors in the whole play, in which Priestley sets out his key socialist idea of how each of us needs to look after the others for society to become good:

See the source image

  • Consider also how Priestley here combines his socialist vision of all the people operating together as if they are parts of one person with the dramatic irony of referring to the lesson 'taught in fire and blood and anguish' which is an allusion to World War II which had just occurred when the play was first performed. The audience would experience considerable grief hearing these lines, whatever their politics.

  • The use of Edna, the servant and references to the Cook. These are little details but often overlooked by students. It is not only the middle to upper class characters who appear on the stage.



I'm available for 1:1 private online tuition!

Click here to view my profile and arrange a free introduction.

Think you can help?

More English Literature GCSE Questions
Sherpa Badge

Need a GCSE English Literature tutor?

Get started with a free online introductions with an experienced and qualified online tutor on Sherpa.

Find a GCSE English Literature Tutor