‘An Inspector Calls’ begins with the Birlings and Gerald Croft celebrating when they are interrupted by a call from an Inspector. The Inspector tells them about a girl who has committed suicide earlier on that evening.
In turn, he questions the Birlings and Gerald for playing a part in her death. After the Inspector leaves the Birlings find out he was not a real Inspector and receive a phone call about a young girl who has just died.The Inspector’s identity is never found out in the play. I think Priestly has left his identity open because it is not his identity that matter but his views, which is what Priestly was trying to get across to the audience of that time. Priestley also never revealed the identity of the Inspector because it was his role as a dramatic device which was most important.The Inspectors role as a dramatic device consisted of three things: to create moments of dramatic tension, to present Priestley’s central views and to move the story forward.
Tension can be created from physical appearance, mystery and suspense. The Inspector uses all three of these to create tension. When he first enters the Birling’s dining room, he creates tension from his physical appearance because he is described to create an ‘impression of massiveness’ and have a habit of ‘looking hard at the person he is addressing before actually speaking’. This description of the Inspector creates tension because his appearance seems very formal compared to the one of the dining room which was very smug and joyous, therefore there is tension because he has cha...
nged the mood.He also creates tension from mystery.
Not showing Eva Smith’s photograph creates mystery because the audience never know if the same photo is being shown. Not knowing the Inspector’s identity also creates mystery.The Inspector also uses suspense to create tension. For example, at the end of Act 1 he ends with the word ‘Well’ and at the beginning of Act 2, he is said to ‘remain at the door for a few seconds looking at Sheila and Gerald’.
This creates suspense within the audience and keeps them guessing about what will happen next.The Inspector also presents Priestley’s central views. Priestley was a socialist, other wise know as a ‘cranks’ which is what Mr Birling saw the Inspector as. Priestley believed in equal rights and unity between people.
Because the rich people were the ones making the Laws, Priestley believed that the rich would stay rich and the poor would stay poor because they had no one representing them. He wrote this play to get across his views through the Inspector to the rich people of that time as it would be them who could afford to see the play.The Inspector also shows Priestley’s views in the speech he makes before he leaves the Birling household. The Inspector says ‘We are all responsible for one another’ (unity between people).
The Inspector moves the story forward through his questioning. He does this through changing the mood, telling Eva Smith’s story, involving time passing, changes in scenery and showing different events.The Inspector helps to move the story along
by changing the mood of the atmosphere when he arrives. Before the Inspector’s arrival, Gerald and the Birling members were said to be ‘very pleased with themselves’. The atmosphere was very relaxed and happy with Mr Birling and Gerald drinking together, Sheila excited about her engagement to Gerald and Mrs Birling and Eric celebrating the engagement as well. The arrival of the Inspector though has a dramatic effect on the mood.
He changes the mood to that of a guilty, unhappy and defensive household. The Inspector changes Mr Birling’s mood from confident and laughing complacently to impatient – ‘Yes, yes. Horrid business….
.’ and threatening – ‘Perhaps I ought to warn you….’ He also changes Gerald’s to ‘impatient’ and makes Sheila ‘distressed’ and ‘frightened’.
The Inspector changes Mrs Birling’s mood into a defensive one – ‘I did nothing I’m ashamed of or that won’t bear investigation’, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong and – you know it’. Eric’s mood is said to be ‘miserable’ and ‘unhappy’.If the Inspector had not arrived, the story would have been very dull. The atmosphere would have been happy and joyous with Mr Birling making speeches and telling Gerald of how he is sure to get a knighthood.
The storyline would have been around the engagement, and there would be no surprise characters. It would have been set in the dining room and there would not have been a lot of action and no surprise characters.The Inspector’s name in ‘An Inspector Calls’ is very ironic. Inspector sounds like ‘spectre’, and Goole sounds like ‘ghoul’.
Priestley here has used dramatic irony because we as an audience see that he is some spirit or ghost but the characters in the play do not realise until the end of the play that Inspector Goole may never have been a real inspector.Mrs Birling’s reason for thinking that he was a fake was because she thought he was ‘rude and assertive’ and she could not imagine a real inspector talking to her in the manner that he had.Mr Birling also thought that he was a fake because of the way he spoke to him – ‘look at the way he spoke to me telling me to shut up…
. They don’t talk like that’.Sheila also suspected that he was a fake because he seemed ‘queer’ and not like an ‘ordinary police officer’.Gerald suspected that the Inspector was a fraud and went to find out. Gerald found out that there was no one named Inspector Goole on the force and the came to tell the Birlings about his findings.
We never find out the real identity of the Inspector. There are a number of suggestions about who the Inspector is. One idea is that he is a time traveller from a spiritual dimension trying to warn the Birlings about their selfish actions and the consequences to theses actions. For example Sheila being jealous of Eva Smith and therefore getting her fired. This theory is like the idea of the spirits in ‘A Christmas Carol’.
The Inspector shows the Birlings by showing them the past, present and future. The past is shown by making each of them
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