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What is the dramatic function of the Inspector in An Inspector Calls
What is the dramatic function of the Inspector in An Inspector Calls

What is the dramatic function of the Inspector in An Inspector Calls

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'An Inspector Calls' opens with the Birling family holding a dinner party celebrating their daughter's engagement to Gerald Croft. When the Inspector arrives, he tells them the news of Eva Smiths death, and subsequently questions them all on the matter. The Inspector has a different effect on the different members of the family, and they all find they are connected to Eva in one way or another.

This relates to Priestley's opinions as he tried to incorporate his socialist views into his plays.Priestley felt there was a lot of social injustice in Britain due to the capitalist society; he felt that many ordinary people were ill treated in the work place and were not given any respect from the higher classes of society. This is shown in the play as Eva Smith could represent all lower class women and when she is treated the way she is, it is a wake up call for the younger generation; whereas the older generations care much more about their reputation than regretting their actions.The dates are significant in the play because there are references to the future but it is written in the past.

The play is set in 1912 but was written in 1945 and there are references to the Titanic, strikes, and war. The inspector could be there for several reasons; firstly he could be inspecting society through the family's actions and decisions. Secondly he shows Priestley's socialist based views and portrays them to his audience. He does this because he has strong political views that he wishes for others to hear and thin

...

k about through the medium of theatre.

The Birlings' world appears harmonious before the Inspector arrives as they are sitting around the table together celebrating Sheila and Gerald's engagement. They are happy and are joking and talking between themselves. Mr Birling is hoping that he will be on the next honours list and is going up in the world, much to his pleasure. The lighting sums up the scene as Priestley says that it should be "pink and intimate" before the Inspector arrives. None of the family sees any problems or worries in what they are doing and feel they have no regrets for their previous actions.

However there are underlying tensions under the happy exterior; there is an imminent war, "Just because the Kaiser makes a speech or two ... you'll hear some people say that war's inevitable.

" the unsinkable Titanic will soon sink, "the Titanic - she sails next week... and every luxury...

- and absolutely unsinkable" and strikes are soon to occur, "... miners came out on strike, there's a lot of wild talk about possible labour trouble in the near future. " These quotations show that Birling is a well-informed man. Birling knows about the likelihood of these events occurring.

Birling denies all of this as he is an optimistic man who would much rather believe in the likelihood of good events taking place than the contrary. This could stem from Birlings own success as he wasn't always very well and therefore he can appear a slight pompous as events have usually taken a turn for

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the better for him. I think Birling tries to sound knowledgeable to impress the family and show off his high-class status. The audience understand the dramatic irony of what Birling says, as they understand what will happen in the future, as it is the history they have already lived through and witnessed.As the audience knows there will be a war, we begin to doubt Mr Birling's judgement. They think: If he is wrong about the war, what else will he be wrong about? The point at which the Inspector arrives is significant as Birling is talking to Gerald and says "But what so many of you don't seem to understand now, when things are so much easier, is that a man has to make his own way - has to look after himself - and his family too of course.

.. " This shows that Mr Birling does not want to take responsibility and would rather just look after himself than look out for other people.Birling adds about his family as an after thought rather than his main priority, I think he doesn't like the way Britain is turning out and would rather be in a very class divided system. In the National Theatre version, the Inspector enters through the audience; this makes the audience feel like they know him better than the characters on stage as they seem very distant. In the National Theatre version, the Inspector wears a costume from the 1930s; he looks smartly dressed in a suit complete with a hat and briefcase.

The Inspector seems to have a certain power over the Birlings in the way he speaks to them and the presence he has over them. The Inspector has power from knowledge; he seems to know a lot about the Birlings' history and asks short, direct, open questions. He does not directly threaten them, but they feel compelled to answer openly, truthfully and honestly. He is quite a cold personality and the characters do not feel that he's a very kind and considerate person towards them. By making them answer the questions truthfully, this could be seen as his dramatic function.The Inspector makes the Birlings review their behaviour, actions, thoughts, and what's on their conscience and subsequently has different degrees of response from all five of them.

The younger generation take more responsibility for their actions and regret what they did. The older generation take it as a fact of life, what's done is done, and there is no use regretting it or learning from their mistakes.Mr Birling's is quite rude to the Inspector in his responses. After he has found out how he had contributed to the girl's death he says, "Still, I can't accept responsibility...

Mr Birling does not like taking responsibility, his number priority is himself, and he doesn't want to change that. This quote shows how self-centred he really is. Mr and Mrs Birling represent the middle class of the present. Priestley is trying to say that this is how the middle class act and this depiction shows how self centred and arrogant Priestley thinks they are.

Priestley tries to summarise all

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