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'An Inspector Calls' is a play by J B Priestley, which was written at the end of World War 2 but is set in 1912, just before W

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Analyse the role of the Inspector in J.B. Priestley's 'An Inspector Calls' 'An Inspector Calls' is a play by J B Priestley, which was written at the end of World War 2 but is set in 1912, just before World War 1. The plot centres on a prosperous family of the time, the Birlings, who are gathered around the dinner table celebrating the engagement of their daughter, Sheila, to Mr Gerald Croft. Into their cosy and complacent world crashes Inspector Goole, who is the central character of the play. He brings news which affects all of the family in different ways, and manipulates them to reveals things which they would rather not be known. By the time he leaves the family has been changed forever. The Birling family are typical of an upper class wealthy family at the time the play is set, the early part of the 1900s. In the early part of the play, before the Inspector arrives, we are introduced to the characters and begin to form an idea of what they are like. Mr Birling is shown to be a smug businessman, who likes to voice his opinions. He says to the family: "you'll hear some people say that war's inevitable. And to that I say - fiddlesticks!" This is ironic because we know that in fact World War 1 started in 1914, two years later. He also talks about the Titanic which is due to sail in the next few days: "unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable". ...read more.


Eric is particularly upset when he learns that his mother turned the girl away when she came to ask for help from a charitable organisation which Mrs Birling was in charge of, when she was pregnant with Eric's baby: "you killed them both - damn you, damn you -". Mr and Mrs Birling are both defensive of their actions. Mrs Birling says: "I'm sorry that she should have come to such a horrible end. But I accept no blame for it at all." Mr Birling feels he had no choice but to sack her: "She'd had a lot to say - far too much - so she had to go". Gerald agrees with this: "You couldn't have done anything else". It is left to Sheila and Eric to turn on their parents and try to teach them the error of their ways. Sheila says to her father: "The point is, you don't seem to have learnt anything". Here the Inspector is bringing in the theme of responsibility - trying to make the family members accept responsibility for their actions and show remorse, if they are to become worthwhile human beings and valuable members of society. However the characters react to their guilt differently, and only Eric and Sheila show real remorse. When later on it is discovered that the Inspector is not really a policeman, Mr and Mrs Birling relax with relief that their lives can get back to what they were before, without the threat of social scandal, and Gerald also believes that nothing has changed in the long run. ...read more.


He acts as a voice of responsibility, trying to make the characters accept the consequences of their actions and show remorse, and he leaves the characters to judge themselves: "You'll be able to divide the responsibility between you when I've gone". The Inspector's importance in the play is also shown by the fact that he is a catalyst for the way the events unfold in the family, his "apparent omniscience" driving each of them to confess. Throughout the play the Inspector serves as Priestley's voice, which is that of a social conscience, condemning Capitalism and putting forward support for a more caring Socialist society, as an ideal for the future. He reminds Mr Birling: "Public men, Mr Birling, have responsibilities as well as privileges". His warning about the way society would develop if these views were not heeded was proved by the two World Wars, which the audience watching the play would have known about. The message that he is trying to put across to the characters, and the audience of 1945, is that the selfish, Capitalist way of life adopted by people such as the Birlings, as it was at the time the play was set (1912), was the reason that the two World Wars occurred, and hopefully lessons will have been learned from it. Many of the Inspector's views are still relevant today, as although the world has changed a lot since 1912, there will always be people like the Birlings, and we all need to be reminded of our duty to society. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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