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The Inspector In An Inspector Calls English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1477 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Inspector Goole is the eponymous character in An Inspector Calls by J.B Priestley who has many functions. Primarily, he is introduced to the play to interrogate the Birling Family and Gerald Croft, but Priestley also uses him to move the plot forward and as a device for the writer to voice his opinion, furthermore he controls movement on stage, encourage the characters and audience to learn from their mistakes and to create moments of tension and mystery.

The Inspector makes the characters confess their actions and reveal what he seems to already know for example, at the end of Act One, when Gerald is discussing to Shelia about the time he spent with Daisy Renton last summer. He already knows that Gerald has something to reveal and that it is just a matter of time:

The door opens and the Inspector walks in looking steadily and searchingly at them. Inspector – Well?’

He uses a brilliant technique of giving a small part of the next bit of the story and watching how the Birlings and Gerald react to it. This is used to great effect when he mentions the name Daisy Renton,

Inspector First she changed her name to Daisy Renton’

Gerald (startled) What?’

Inspector (steadily) I said she changed her name to Daisy Renton.’

Gerald Do you mind if I give myself a drink Shelia?’

As soon as the Inspector hears this startled expression, he knows that Gerald is hiding something that may be of use to the investigation. Nevertheless, eventually, the family begin to see what the Inspector is doing to them, for example at the end of Act Two, Shelia says:

He’s giving us the rope so that we’ll hang ourselves.’

In addition, this quote also shows it:

Gerald I’m sorry Shelia. Somehow I-

Shelia (cutting in as he hesitates) I know. Somehow he makes you.’

She is totally right, as in a number of cases up until this point, he has given them a very small piece of information and then they have revealed everything.

The Inspector also controls speech and movement on stage, for example as I have explained above he controls the speech as he is making them confess their connection to the death of Eva Smith but he also controls movement, for example at the start of Act Three:

Eric Could I have a drink first?’

Birling No!’

Inspector (Firmly) Yes! I know – he’s your son and this is your house but look at him. He needs a drink now just to see him through.

Birling (to Eric) All Right, go on.’

There are many other instances that this occurs in the play – at

the end of Act Two where the Inspector manages to get Mrs Birling to say that whoever got the girl pregnant should be punished severely by telling her the story in an incredibly exaggerated way and then revealing that it was Eric who was the father. In addition, after some very strong comments he turns Mr Birling who only seems to care about his and his companies’ reputation over to sympathise with the girl after he has been commenting on how he had every right to do what he did:

Rubbish! If you don’t come down sharply enough on these people, they’d soon be asking for the world.’

Then later on in the story:

Listen, I’d give thousands’

Going to an extreme of controlling the actions on stage, because of the way that he reveals Gerald’s story, he turns Shelia against him and Shelia joins in interrogating him as the Bad Cop’,

Shelia That’s probably about the best thing you’ve said tonight. At least it’s honest. Did you go and see her every night?’

You can really feel the spite and anger behind this comment and she is the woman that Gerald is supposed to be getting married to.

The Inspector creates moments of tension in the play, mainly at the end of Acts One and Two where something happens and the audience is waiting for someone to confess their relation to the death.

Inspector holds up a hand. We hear the front door. They wait, looking towards the door. Eric enters, looking extremely pale and distressed. He meets their inquiring stares. Curtain falls quickly.

At this moment, the audience would be on the edge of their seat and because the Three Acts are continuous, this act change is just in the right place for creating a cliff-hanger. This also happens at the very end of Act one where I have quoted above, and these moments aren’t just at the end of the acts, they can also be in the middle caused by a passing comment,

Mrs B. Naturally I don’t know anything about this girl.

Inspector (gravely) Well, we’ll see, Mrs Birling.

This is just a very short sentence but it gives the audience a hint of what is to come next and that Mrs Birling has a connection to the death and they just want to find out what it is.

The Inspector acts as a voice for Priestley’s moral to the story and this is revealed in the Inspectors’ final speech. He teaches that everyone is linked and we should all co-operate to make the world a better place. He speaks rather like a politician:

But just remember this. [Pause, the rhythm of the language can make it sound more dramatic] One Eva Smith has gone but there

are millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us. [Using contrastive pairs gives the audience a good outlook for the future.] With their lives, their hopes and fears [The use of memorable words and phrases makes the speech stand out.] their suffering and chance of happiness, [More contrastive pairs and the listing of things in threes makes this even more like a political speech.] all intertwined with our lives, with what we think and say and do. [There is more use of memorable phrasing at the start of this sentence and talking positively about us’ or we’ helps the audience to identify with what is being said. Also, at the end of the sentence, there is another list of threes.] We do not live alone; we are members of one body. We are responsible for each other.[Again, he is mentioning things in threes and using we’ to help the audience identify] And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. Good Night. [This sentence introduces the use of the first person singular I’ to make the audience feel the speaker is earnest. Also, in bold are more phrases that are memorable, the phrase fire and blood and anguish’ could be thought of as a prophecy of the two World Wars still to come as Priestley wrote this play to make a political point. In addition, this can make the play more mysterious if the Inspector is thought of as a time traveller. He finishes with Good Night’ wrapping everything up.]

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To add to Priestley’s voice in the play, the character of Mr Birling is put forward as a slave to Capitalism and the inspector is seen to be fighting with him all the way making him see like more and more of a bad person. This greatly helps to change the audiences’ views on politics and give them a different perspective on what is happening in the world.

Sometimes, the Inspector makes this speech, not to the characters on stage, but to the audience. It can be rather a rather spellbinding speech as it is very well constructed and persuasive. Priestley makes a very good job of putting his views across and they are very important points that are usually overlooked in our everyday lives. He encourages not just the characters, but the audience too to learn from their mistakes to give everyone a happier life and a better future. If you bear in mind that this play was written just after the Second World War in 1945, it could be Priestley’s plea to stop the violence after two World Wars saying that we are all a community and if we work together then the world would be a much better place.

I think the Inspector is very successful in putting Priestley’s point across and that he captures the audiences’ attention really well with his gripping speech.

The Inspector is the creator of all of the drama, tension, intrigue and mystery in the play An Inspector Calls’ and he is used incredibly well to capture the audiences attention. I think that Priestley, as well as using him as the main character in terms of development in the storyline, has really just used him to echo his own views. This is to give a rather obvious moral to this play saying that everybody’s actions affect everyone else and no one should be selfish as it could influence someone’s life greatly in a chain of events.


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