The function of the inspector in An Inspector Calls Essay Example
The function of the inspector in An Inspector Calls Essay Example

The function of the inspector in An Inspector Calls Essay Example

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  • Published: October 12, 2017
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My essay will explore various aspects of the inspector's role in "An Inspector Calls," such as historical context, character interactions, audience reception, and other related factors.

Priestly was born into a middle-class family in Bradford during a period in which Britain saw a rise in outdoor paupers, surpassing numbers not seen since 1888. In fact, as many as one in forty-one people depended on parish charity for their next meal. Alongside this, there were numerous tragedies, such as Welsh pit disasters, which led to the death of 156 individuals. During this time, wealthy businessmen disregarded the safety of their workers.

200,000 workers went on strike across the nation due to low wages and rising prices, leading to violent riots. Despite their attempts, they were ultimately locked out and forced to return to their original wages.


In "An Inspector Calls," Eva Smith, one of Mr. Birling's employees, also participated in a strike for similar reasons. At this time, London was ranked as the second unhealthiest city worldwide. Following Queen Victoria's death, Edward VII became king. During the First World War's onset, Priestly served in the trenches in France.

Throughout the war, an assortment of weapons were developed such as tanks, shells, warships, submarines, machine guns, poison gas and bomber planes. Therefore, to support the war effort, income tax was increased twofold. The Birling family in The Birling family story had faith that there would be no war; Mr Birling held this view particularly strongly.

Within the text, there is an example of dramatic irony which shows that Mr Birling is a foolish man who believes he is clever when he says, "And I say there isn't a chanc

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of war. The world's developing so fast it'll make war impossible." This is further supported by the sinking of the supposedly "unsinkable" Titanic, which Mr Birling had praised earlier on page seven, saying "she sails next week- forty six thousand eight hundred tons- New York in five days- and every luxury- and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable."

One must pay attention to significant facts and advancements, such as the sinking of the Titanic and the casualties it resulted in on 15 April 1912. It is an example of dramatic irony since a character may use words that do not align with reality. H.G Wells, a socialist, initially released his science fiction tale "The Time Machine" during this time period. His stories depicted visions of catastrophic futures.

The belief that society can only be saved through education and history is contrasted with Mr Birling's foolishness in the play. He dismisses intellectual figures like Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells, claiming that practical businessmen like himself must speak up. However, H. G. Wells was intelligent and accomplished while Mr Birling was merely arrogant and not truly superior to anyone else.

The Second World War saw an increase in killings and atrocities, surpassing those of the First World War. This resulted in the highest number of civilian deaths ever recorded and extensive aerial bombing targeting cities. The war ended with a death toll of 55 million, which included 6 million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. Furthermore, the US introduced a new era in warfare by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Both bombs killed 70,000 civilians immediately and caused additional deaths from radiation poisoning. In "An Inspector Calls," Mr Birling's

discussions of World War One emphasize his lack of wisdom. Priestly penned the play following the conclusion of the Second World War.

At the start of the play "An Inspector Calls," the character Mr Birling delivers speeches which mention a range of topics. The play takes place in 1912, beginning with a cheerful family gathering that abruptly shifts once the Inspector enters the scene. Sheila, in her twenties, is a beautiful woman who enjoys life and is thrilled to be marrying Gerald Croft. However, she can also be quite indulgent. On the other hand, Gerald is an attractive and affluent man from a superior social class compared to the Birling family, hailing from an established rural background.

The stage directions suggest that the entire family is content. Sheila, a young woman in her twenties, is described as lovely and enthusiastic about life. Additionally, the family is in good spirits as they all enjoyed a nice meal, celebrate a special event, and are proud of themselves. Overall, the family appears to be wealthy and concerned with their reputation.

The stage directions reveal the affluence of the household by describing the dining room as belonging to a prosperous manufacturer with good solid furniture from the period. The overall impression is one of substantial and heavily comfortable furnishings, but lacking in coziness or homeliness. Mr. Birling impresses Gerald by mentioning the quality of their port and its similarity to his father's selection, indicating their wealth.

The stage directions of the play suggest that the house depicted is not a typical cozy home. Moreover, the dialogue among characters implies that this family is far from being loving or ordinary. Sheila's comment

about Gerald's absence during the past summer while sitting at the table with her family hints towards their history which will be revealed later on. This revelation suggests that one or more characters have secrets and adds to the evidence that this family is anything but average.The play An Inspector Calls is set in the year 1912, before World War One. At this time, women were not given equal rights and were expected to fulfill men's demands. Society viewed women as less important than men and even denied them the right to vote. Mrs. Birling's statement, "When you're married you'll realize that men with important work to do sometimes have to spend all their time and energy on their business," exemplifies this societal view. Although such a statement would be considered demeaning and sexist towards women today, it was acceptable at that time. The play begins with the women conveying through their demeanor that men are valued above them and they should not interfere in men's work.

The stage directions in An Inspector Calls by J B Priestley provide valuable guidance to readers and actors alike, indicating how lines should be delivered and movements executed. This enables readers to better understand a character's personality and their stance towards Eva Smith. The following line spoken impatiently by Mr Birling to the Inspector illustrates this: "(rather impatiently) look - there's nothing mysterious - or scandalous - abut this business - at least not so far as I'm concerned."

Mr Birling appears unconcerned about Eva's suicide and speaks impatiently about the case, which occurred nearly two years before and has nothing to do with it. He seems stressed by the

Inspector's questions about Eva. Mr Birling is surprised when asked why he refused to give Eva a wage increase, indicating that he doesn't believe raising her wages was feasible and it wasn't his fault if she killed herself. The Inspector's entrance changes the atmosphere, making it clear he is a well-dressed man who puts people off with his disconcerting habit of staring intently before speaking.

According to "page 11", the inspector's eloquent manner causes the individual to become fearful and apprehensive even before he speaks. Despite Mr Birling's attempts to deflect or absolve himself of blame, the inspector consistently redirects it onto the entire family.

In the play, the Inspector exercises control over the entire family by placing blame on various characters. For instance, when Shelia expresses her concern for a deceased individual by saying "Don't you understand?And if I could help her now, I would," the Inspector asserts that it is too late as "she's dead." While he does not explicitly blame Sheila, he manages to do so through his pointed response. Additionally, the Inspector commands attention, as evidenced by the stage directions on page twenty-one which indicate that he is a commanding presence. Furthermore, the Inspector exhibits control by responding to Eric's intent to sleep by warning him that "If you turn in now you might have to turn out again soon." Overall, the Inspector deftly places blame and controls every character.

The Inspector's inquiry into the death of Eva began with Mr Birling, who fired her for leading a strike regarding pay. While Sheila and Eric supported the Inspector's investigation, Mr Birling attempted to evade responsibility and point the finger elsewhere. Despite

Mr Birling's attempts to shift blame, Sheila, Eric, and Inspector Goole remained steadfast in their pursuit of the truth. When Mr Birling attempted to change the subject by accusing the Inspector of ruining their family dinner, the Inspector made a powerful statement by presenting a mental image of Eva dead in the infirmary. Mr Birling remained oblivious to the consequences of his actions, prioritizing his reputation and desire for knighthood in the upcoming honours list instead of acknowledging his responsibility for Eva's death.

Despite Mr Birling's belief in his family's perfection, he discovers that they are not without their flaws. Eric reveals that he is unable to confide in his father and has yet to comprehend the importance of caring for others beyond himself. This highlights the lack of unity within the family that Mrs Birling may have overlooked.

The author addresses Sheila's role in Eva's termination from Milwards. Eva was let go because she smiled when a dress did not fit Sheila, who envied Eva for her looks. Sheila takes responsibility for her actions and acknowledges them as her own wrongdoing.

Initially, the woman did not give much consideration to her actions when confronted by the inspector and took responsibility without difficulty. However, this encounter left her with feelings of regret and apprehension towards revisiting that location. In contrast, Gerald exhibited accountability by rescuing a girl from harassment, supplying her with nourishment, and securing lodging for her.

Despite initially resisting, Gerald ultimately gave in to his own desires and callously left the girl without concern for her well-being. Sheila had suspected something was wrong between him and the girl since the previous summer but didn't know what

it was. Gerald tried to keep it a secret but Sheila saw through him, telling him they couldn't hide it from everyone. The inspector mentioned 'Daisy Renton', causing Gerald to visibly startle and reveal his involvement without prompting. Although he cared for the girl, their differing social statuses prevented them from marrying. Mrs Birling refused to help Eva when she approached the charity due to lack of money, employment, housing and pregnancy.

Using the name Miss Birling, the woman was rejected by Mrs Birling due to her anger about the use of her family name. Mrs Birling abused her power, which resulted in the withholding of aid from Eva's charity. The inspector exercised control over Mrs Birling by consistently directing her back to the matter at hand with difficult inquiries.

During the investigation, both Sheila and the inspector joined forces to confront her Mother as she refused to take any responsibility for the girl's death. Although Mrs Birling acknowledged her role as the chairwoman of Women's Charity Organisation, she only believed in helping those who she deemed worthy and did not accept any blame for the incident. Despite expressing regret for the girl's tragic end, Mrs Birling refused to accept accountability for it.

In the end, the inspector interrogated Eric last and discovered that he had impregnated the girl. Eric also confessed to stealing money from his father's business, which left the girl penniless after she found out it was stolen and refused to take any more. Despite being impoverished, Eva firmly upholds her principles and knows what is right and wrong.

Upon returning, Eric's wrongdoing was known to all. At the party, he assumed responsibility

for his actions and recognized that he couldn't depend on his father for assistance. Simultaneously, he confided in his mother - who was almost at her breaking point - blaming her for everything. He claimed she had killed both the woman who came to defend him and their unborn child, which was not only hers but also his grandchild. His emotions were overpowering as he expressed his anguish and held his mother accountable.

Mrs Birling expresses a sense of guilt and responsibility, saying "No- Eric- please- I didn't know- I didn't understand." This suggests that Mrs Birling now comprehends the impact of her actions, but only because they directly affect her son. The Inspector appears more familiar with Eric than his own parents, indicating a dysfunctional family dynamic.

After the inspector's departure, the family is in disarray, with Sheila distraught, Gerald's and Sheila's relationship ruined, and Mr. Birling still furious. Additionally, Mrs. Birling and Eric have a major dispute and some revelations pertaining to Eric finally surface. Despite this, Mr. and Mrs. Birling remain convinced that they can continue as usual, while the tension created by the inspector continues to plague the family and its members.

In his speech, the Inspector emphasizes the importance of responsibility for each other and being members of a single body. However, Mr Birling contradicts this by stating that everyone should focus on their own success and self-care. Priestley employs this contrast to criticize capitalism and advocate for socialism. Additionally, Priestley effectively uses timing as a literary device.

By timing the Inspector's entrance to immediately follow Mr Birling's speech, the audience is led to believe that the Inspector's purpose may be to discredit Birling's

words. This suspicion is further reinforced by the name "Inspector Goole," which sounds similar to words like "ghoul" and "spectre." Furthermore, the Inspector inspires the audience to understand that they are all connected as "members of one body," and must strive to aid people like Eva Smith. The Inspector warns that failure to do so may result in tragedy and loss, motivating the audience to heed Priestley's message. Ultimately, the Inspector symbolizes the challenges faced by individuals during a time when poverty and homelessness were rampant in society.

Within the story, Eva faced mistreatment from both Gerald and Eric, demonstrating that women were viewed as inferior to men. The luxurious lifestyle of the Birling family is contrasted with the struggles of workers fighting for fair wages, resulting in the bleak and dismal existence forced upon the girl due to the actions of figures like the Birlings.

The Inspector advocates for the underprivileged and advocates for the recognition of the shared humanity of all individuals, promoting an interdependent community. Sheila and Eric comprehend the importance of this message, with Sheila willing to embody and display compassion. However, her father disregards the notion of a community that shares responsibility and guilt, where individuals must look after each other. Sheila and Eric gain knowledge on responsibility through the Inspector's teachings.

According to Sheila, she has a vivid recollection of the Inspector's words, demeanor, and impact on her emotions. The Inspector's presence in the play highlights Priestley's message that simply possessing wealth or achieving success is insufficient. Rather, these positions necessitate an obligation to support others within our societal structure.

We cannot enjoy privileges without also having responsibility, as Priestley's play

highlights. He uses the character of the Inspector to impart his socialist beliefs about taking responsibility for others, in contrast to the selfish attitudes of Mr. and Mrs. Birling. The events of the play demonstrate that the entire Birling family bears some responsibility for the death of Eva Smith, but only the more sympathetic characters acknowledge this and commit to making changes. "Public men Mr. Birling, have responsibilities as well as privileges," Priestley reminds us.

The Inspector in "An Inspector Calls" emphasizes that our actions have consequences and can impact others, as there are many vulnerable people like Eva Smith and John Smith in society. It is the duty of those with wealth and status to help those who are less fortunate. The characters in the play also represent different attitudes in society, and Eva's situation highlights various social problems. The Inspector speaks up for Priestley's socialist views, conveying his beliefs about how society should function. This message is reinforced just before the Inspector leaves the Birling household.

In his final speech, the Inspector highlights the errors made by the Birlings and urges both the characters and the audience to amend their ways. He emphasizes the importance of assuming responsibility for one's actions and treating the working class with fairness. This speech creates an atmosphere of suspense and drama and conveys the central message of the play. It is strategically positioned as all the misdeeds of the Birlings and Gerald have been exposed, and they have been made aware of the consequences of their cruelty towards Eva Smith, which led to the loss of Eric's child.

Eric's almost hitting his mother shows that the group has disintegrated completely,

leading to feelings of guilt and allowing the Inspector to seize control. The Inspector's manipulative tactics involved inspecting the characters in a specific order and within a strict time frame, which has successfully captured both the attention of the characters and audience. This has enabled him to make the key point he has been building towards throughout the night.

Although Eva Smith cannot be helped, there are many others like her who require assistance. The Inspector emphasizes the importance of supporting one another. If people are forced to endure suffering, the repercussions will extend to us all. The socialist message at the center of the play highlights the significance of taking responsibility for the well-being of others, not just ourselves. This message is applicable not only to the Birlings but to all of us. Although the situation is already tense, the Inspector's closing remarks intensify the unease with their ominous nature.

He warns us that failure to heed his advice will result in consequences of "fire and blood and anguish" (such as those in World War One), forever changing our lives. There are those who perceive this statement as a forecast of World Wars I and II, as well as the Russian Revolution. Sadly, many disregarded the Inspector's message, leading to the Holocaust. It is these words that fuel our frustration when it appears that the Birlings may evade justice.

We are of the opinion that the Inspector has deceived us and individuals of similar nature will not face any consequences. This is why we are relieved, and taken aback by the ending, as it appears that the Birlings will not evade justice.

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