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An Inspector Calls

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What Purpose Does The Inspector Serve In "An Inspector Calls?" When J.B. Priestley sat down to write "An Inspector Calls," he deliberately decided to set the novel in the year 1912. This was the same historic year that the "Unsinkable" Titanic sank, the class system in Britain was at its height, and was two years before the beginning of the First World War. A middle class family; who have worked their way up the social ladder, sit down to dinner to celebrate their daughter's engagement to wealthy business man, Gerald Croft. However simultaneously a police inspector arrives by the name of Goole, he is investigating the suicide of a young working class girl Eva Smith. It soon comes to light that each family member knew the poor girl and became intertwined with her life, bringing about her downfall. Our first views of the Inspector's appearance are "he creates a sense of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness ... he is a man in his fifties, dressed in a plain darkish suit of the period." For the Inspector to dress in "a plain darkish suit of the period," it ensures that his character gives away no personality traits or questions where he comes from. His surname also strikes questioning - "Goole." The unusual name seems quite similar to the words "Ghoul," or "Ghost." This "play on words" suggests suspicion and questions what is really known about him. He could be from any era because nothing is known about him. When the Inspector enters the area where Arthur Birling was previously addressing his son Eric, and Gerald Croft. He comes inside with an assertive manner, immediately silencing all present and forces the celebrative mood out. ...read more.


"You're a member of the Brumley Women's Charity Organisation, aren't you? ... Mrs Birling spoke to and saw her only two weeks ago." The Inspector builds up to this line of questioning by distracting Mrs Birling and then casually ask if she is part of a charity organisation. The stage directions show that the "door slams again ... Mrs Birling; you're a member - a prominent member - of the Brumley Women's Charity organisation." Mrs Birling tells us how she assumed that Eva Smith must have been trouble, because Eva "impertinently" used her name. She used her position to convince the other committee members to refuse her all possible help as well, because Eva shouldn't have come to her with a "bad case". The committee became less and less interested in what Eva had to say so Mrs Birling took it upon herself to decide on behalf of the committee that all which Eva had said was lies, so it was just as easy to blame everything on the unknown father (Eric). Mrs Birling decides that it has nothing to do with the committee and without realising, starts to implicate Eric. "It was her business to make him responsible. If he refused to marry her - and in my opinion he ought to be compelled to - then he must at least support her." Mrs Birling is demanding that Eric marry Eva even though Mrs Birling doesn't care or want to be associated with Eva Smith. Mrs Birling has made it crystal clear that she doesn't want to be associated with Eva Smith, and yet she is still connected because Eric is the father. ...read more.


The class system had disappeared as many people of all classes had to fight in the two wars, women took over the men's roles, and they would have supported each other and become friends thus abolishing the class system by simply interacting. The play being set in 1912, two years before the start of the First World War, meant that people who were so optimistic and patriotic towards Britain, like Mr Birling, enjoyed the fact that Britain had the class system. This would have meant that it showed other countries that Britain contained superior people. It would have been known around the world that Britain had the glorious unsinkable Titanic which would sail to America. On that boat there were divisions between classes so much so that the lifeboats were only filled with 1st and 2nd class passengers. Priestley shows the divisions between classes by each character's personality - Mr & Mrs Birling talk down and forcefully towards their workers, "a girl in her situation". Whereas Eric and Sheila are a little more impenetrable "I don't see much nonsense about it when a girl goes and kills herself". Eric calls Eva Smith a girl, indicating nothing to do with the class system showing that it isn't always on his mind like it seems to be on Mr & Mrs Birling's. In conclusion, I do agree with Priestley's message because it is a strong message which has been around for thousands of years but the world doesn't seem to really have understood it yet. In our modern day world there are wars in Iraq, poverty and homelessness on every doorstep and yet so many million and billionaires around the world; invisible divisions. As one world we should tackle those problems by abolishing these invisible divisions which effect everyone's growth. ...read more.

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