Another aspect of society that is criticised is the upper classs view towards industry, and the one man for himself philosophy of Arthur Birling. Birling has no time for the ideas of socialism and workers rights, saying that no one should worry about labour trouble in the future. This is shown in his disregard for the strike conducted by Eva Smith. He also dismisses Russia, where the communist movement was gaining strength, stating that it will always be backwards. Another place in the play, where Birling shows resentment towards any movement representing equality is after discovering the Inspector is not all he seems, he dismisses him as a socialist or some sort of crank.
There is also criticism of social ignorance of the middle classes, and their historical attitudes. Most of these stem from Birlings early speeches in Act 1, where he makes a series of predictions about the future. These grand predictions would have seemed particularly bitter and ironic to the audience at the time, because during this period the world was going through a disastrous war and Birlings wildly optimistic prophecies would be seen to be completely wrong.
Birling predicts that in twenty or thirty years time there will be peace, greater prosperity and happiness everywhere. In fact, the world was about to be plunged into the carnage of the first world war, the chances of which Birling dismissed as fiddlesticks, followed by another war twenty years later. Birlings comment that the Germans do not want war would seen particularly ironic because Germany was heavily involved against Britain in both these wars. Birling also thinks that Britain is in for a time of increasing prosperity, when in fact in a few years the economy was to be devastated by the great depression with thousands of job losses.
Birling also had a misguided faith in the progress of the future and its creations. He claims that the liner Titanic, designed and built by people like Birling, is absolutely unsinkable and stresses the size of the ship, 46 800 tonnes. However, a few weeks later, the unsinkable ship was at the bottom of the north Atlantic Ocean with the loss of 1600 lives. Again, Birlings visions had been showed to be very incorrect. Another aspect that is criticised is the corruption of money. When asked why he dismissed Eva Smith for asking for a relatively modest wage increase, Birling tries to defend himself by citing financial reasons.
Also, as Birling discovers the revelations about Erics theft he becomes more and more desperate, and just before the Inspectors departure, he says he will give thousands to keep the story quiet. However, the Inspector declines the money and says: You are offering the money at the wrong time, and Eva Smith will make you pay a price a heavy price in terms of emotion, not money. J.B Priestly is also criticising the disparity between the younger and the older generation. After the Inspectors visit, we can see which of the characters have learnt their lesson from the experience, and which are steadily clinging to their old beliefs.
Sheila is probably the character who changes the most during the play. At the start, she is very happy with her engagement and content with life. However even at this point we pick up some of the qualities that are brought out so readily later in the play, such as her clear stating of opinions, about Geralds absence during the summer and her opinion of wine drinkers. Sheila appears to be inattentive during her fathers speeches, this suggests that she does not find her fathers opinions interesting, and this may point to her future conduct in the play.
Sheilas explanation of her conduct when interrogated by the Inspector shows how nave and thoughtless she was up to this point. She also swears that she will never, never do it again to anybody. This is a turning point for Sheila in the play; almost at once, she sheds her image of being a na¯¿½ve and ignorant young lady and takes on the most profound understanding of the Inspectors message.