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In the play "An Inspector Calls" by J.B Priestley, Mr Birling gives a speech at the beginning of the play riddled with dramatic irony and selfish statements; he doesn't get to finish the speech as the Inspector arrives. Near the end of the play, after the Inspector exposes the Birlings for their crimes and misbehavior, the Inspector gives a speech which completely opposes Mr Birling's.

Birling's speech (before the Inspector arrives):

"......... a man has to make his own way- has to look after himself - and his family too, of course, when he has one - and so long as he does that he won't come to much harm. But the way some of these cranks talk and write now, you'd think everybody has to look after everybody else, as if we were all mixed up together like bees in a hive- community and all that nonsense. But take my word for it you youngsters - and I've learnt in the good hard of school of experience - that a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own and-"

Inspector's speech:

"But just remember this. One Eva Smith has gone - but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and a chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives and what we think and say and do. We don't live alone. 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 in fire and blood and anguish."

I understand that the Inspector is a mouthpiece for J.B Priestley but what I don't understand is how these two speeches are opposite to each other. I understand that the Inspector says we are all responsible for each other, but he states that throughout the play.

Can someone please explain how these two speeches are polar opposites?

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These speeches by the characters are opposite each other because of the opposite ideas. As you stated, the Inspector is a mouthpiece for Priestly, and Priestly was a believer in socialism, whereas Birling represents more Capitalist views. The speeches are opposite because they show the differences in ideas between these two ideologies.

For example, Birlings states:

But the way some of these cranks talk and write now, you'd think everybody has to look after everybody else as if we were all mixed up together like bees in a hive- community and all that nonsense.

Which shows how Mr Birling is disregarding community and wants to take no part in it preferring to only support himself and his family.

However, the Inspector states:

...all intertwined with our lives and what we think and say and do. We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other.

Which shows how the Inspector, and therefore Priestly believes that we need to have a sense of community and should take responsibility for each other.

In this way, the speeches are polar opposites because the ideologies in which the characters represent as shown in this speeches contract. Whereas Birling takes a more capitalist view, which is the opposite of the socialist view expressed by the Inspector.

It is true that throghout the play Birling expresses his captalist views which are contrasted by the Inspectors socialist views however it is in these speeches we see that contrast expressed most as the phrases "you'd think everybody has to look after everybody else" and "we are responsible for each other" highlights the difference in their views and making them polar opposites.

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