The audiences first impression of the Inspector is from the title itself, ‘An Inspector Calls’, which gives the idea; to the audience that the Inspector will play a vital role in the coming stages of the play however we soon learn J. B.
Priestley’s real motives and how he uses the Inspector as his mouthpiece to voice his real intentions to the wider society. J. B. Priestley’s main point which is made clear is to take responsibility of your actions especially when they affect the lives of others and this message is made clearly by the Inspector.
Priestley also makes it clear on how he feels about people higher on the social ladder and he constantly attacks middle class values because he hates people who have vast amounts of money and keep it to themselves. Act one begins with the four Birlings seated on the table with Gerald, the characters seem ‘pleased with themselves’. The family are celebrating the engagement of Sheila and Gerald, the atmosphere is quite relaxed, with Mr Birling looking rather pleased with himself.Mr Birling goes on to say, ‘this is one of the happiest nights of my life’ and seems rather smug, causing the audience to immediately dislike Mr Birling. Mr Birling goes on to talk about business because Gerald is a wealthy business man and Mr Birling sees the possibility of a business merger and goes on to describe himself as a “hard headed business man” making him seems very selfish, and you see his real intentions with the engagement.
Mr Birling quite full of himself goes on to brag to Gerald about a po...
ssible knighthood which would place him higher upon the social scale.The Inspector makes his first appearance at a very interesting time, just when Mr Birling was preaching about how ‘a man has to make his own way has to look after himself and his family too’ and Mr Birling seems very sure of himself. The Inspector immediately stands out from the crowd, where he is dressed in ‘plain darkish shirt’ the others are dressed in their formal clothing indicating their position on the social scale compared to the Inspector.The Inspector himself ‘creates an impression of massiveness’ so from the beginning the Inspector dominates the stage until the end and does everything his pace which causes come characters too become irritated and intimidated of him. The Inspector manipulates the characters especially Sheila and Eric and isn’t intimidated by anyone especially Mr Birling.
The Inspector begins firstly by questioning Mr Birling, who at first tries to impress the Inspector by using his social status by saying ‘I was an Alderman for years and Lord Mayor two years ago’ the Inspector obviously isn’t impressed.Mr Birling also sees that the Inspector isn’t impressed so becomes more aggressive and starts threatening the Inspector, by saying if he knows the Chief Constable, Colonel Roberts, then says ‘I ought to warn you that he’s an old friend’ the Inspector doesn’t really care. It is pretty obvious that the Inspector decides who he questions and who gets to the photograph, he decides who can leave and stay and overrules M
Birling when he says no to Eric when he asks for a drink, ‘he needs a drink now just to see him through’ with Mr Birling replying ‘all right. Go on’ this shows how the Inspector has complete control.One of the important functions of the play is for the Inspector to expose the hypocrisy of the middle class, who were in the early 20th century were quite noticeable and were seen as quite snobbish and not caring about anyone but themselves.
The middle class are represented by Mr and Mrs Birling and Priestley deliberately makes them two look foolish, also Priestley sets the pair up making them looking even more stupid by using such examples about Mr Birling goes on about how the Titanic is unsinkable and how the Germans don’t want war, obviously as readers we have the advantage of hindsight therefore we have the knowledge.This is how Priestley exposes their sheer stupidity and how Mrs Birling is so blinded, further examples are on how Mrs Birling won’t believe that Alderman Meggarty is a womaniser just because he is supposed to be a respectable, and how she is deluded about Eva Smith just because she is ‘a girl of that sorts’ she has no morals. The Inspector begins by exposing each member of the Birlings, about how they each caused Eva Smith pain and untold suffering. Mr and Mrs Birling are exposed on how they abused their power and influence over Eva Smith.
This results in them to be seen as arrogant and snobbish and how they constantly keep condescending. The Inspector forces the confessions of the Birlings and Gerald on how their actions affected Eva Smith and how she paid the price for their actions. Sheila’s jealousy causes Eva to lose her job, Eric’s drinking problem causes him to steal money but Eva refuses to take any because she knew how Eric obtained the money and this was by theft. Gerald causes Eva emotional pain because of their affair together and this exposes Gerald cheating on Sheila, so he was unfaithful.So the Birlings are exposed by Priestly through the Inspector. The Inspector finishes with the Birlings soon after and gives his final speech saying ‘we are responsible for each other’ but soon after leaving Mr and Mrs Birling act as if it never happened and are relieved because there won’t be a public scandal but Sheila says, ‘you’re pretending everything’s just as it was before’ which shows Mr and Mrs Birling’s true colours as Priestly continues his attack on middle classes as the older Birlings are happy that Inspector was just a hoax who set out to scare them and tell them they were responsible for someone’s death.
So the older Birlings have learnt nothing, what Sheila says soon after ‘everything we said had happened really had happened’ shows that what they confessed was true, whether all towards one girl or more and how the older Birlings are ‘pretending that nothing happened’. Sheila and Eric however have painfully learned their lessons, the hard way. They both represent the younger generation who are willing to learn and as the Inspector himself