• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

'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

Extracts from this document...


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.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE J.B. Priestley section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE J.B. Priestley essays

  1. Discussthe role of the Inspector in the play 'An Inspector Calls'

    Then Sybil admits it by saying 'Yes its quite true.' I think at first she tries to deny this because she may think that the inspector doesn't know anything but really he does or he's very clever and bluffing. The younger characters feel remorse for what they have done, Sybil doesn't even pity the poor girl.

  2. 'An Inspector Calls' is based in 1912, before the first and second world war, ...

    It is now that Sheila realises what one action could do to someone's life and as the inspector states 'She feels responsible. And if she leaves us now, and doesn't here any more, then she'll feel she's entirely to blame, she'll be alone with her responsibility, the rest of tonight, all tomorrow, all the next night-'.

  1. 'An Inspector calls' is set in 1912 and was written for a 1946 audience. ...

    true feelings, rather then cover them up out of politeness, as had been happening earlier on. The Inspector has successfully brought about each character's role in the death of Eva Smith, and is now acting more as a referee. As the family are at each other's throats, in many occasions,

  2. What inspired Priestley? What made him write 'An Inspector Calls' and why set it ...

    to the Birlings in order to make them see what it is like for the other people, not just their breed. Priestley was born into a middle class family and did not suffer like the lower classes, however, this doesn't necessarily mean he did not know what was going on or how these people felt.

  1. In 'An Inspector Calls', the author, J.B. Priestley chose to set the play in ...

    Social versus individual responsibility is the central theme that is at 'the root of the left-wing social vision- underpinning the play. The structure of the play had been designed purely revolving around the intended function of the inspector, which is again, focused on Priesley's indisputable ideas regarding society.

  2. How Do The Characters In An Inspector Calls Reflect 1912 Society?

    She had no husband, which at that time didn't help if they were working class women because the man would bring in the money, and so worked herself to earn her income. During this time the wages for women, like Eva, was twenty-two and six.

  1. Tale of 2 cities

    This shows he doesn't care much for others and takes away his pain and loneliness by drinking, even though he is a very intelligent man he still turns to drinking. I also think he is nihilistic because he says "I care for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for me".

  2. How do various attitudes reflect Social, Cultural and Historical values, both of the time ...

    and she ignores Sheila's warning about building up a "wall" between herself and the Inspector. Further examples of this snobbery are shown when she tries to impress the Inspector with the positions that her husband holds: Mrs Birling (to the Inspector)

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work