Letter: An exploration of complicity in suffering

Published: 7/28/2018 12:01:03 AM

We are blessed in New England with excellent summer theatre. The Peterborough Players, now in its 85th season, consistently offers stunning productions. Recently, I was fortunate to see J. B. Priestley’s “An Inspector Calls.”

The play was advertised as a “mystery,” and I entered the theatre expecting a light entertainment. As the play progressed to its surprising finale, I realized that the playwright had led me step by step into the mystery of my own responsibility for the welfare of my fellow human companions. The play is presciently appropriate to our current climate of selfish individualism. Priestley would have been no friend of Ayn Rand.

A young woman in an upper-class English family is about to be engaged to a fine young gentleman. The first act introduces us to the four members of the Birling family. We also meet the suitor and share in the offer of the engagement ring. All is well until an inspector knocks at the door and begins to question each family member about the unfortunate and tragic suicide of a local destitute woman.

The genius of the play is cleverly and slowly revealed as the drama progresses. In a subtle mastery of dramatic technique, the audience finds that they too are being interrogated.

To be overly self-preoccupied at any time, while not a crime, is at least a moral failing. But to be selfish in the face of the widespread suffering of our fellow men and women is certainly a tragedy.



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