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Analyse Priestley's use of inspector Goole as a catalyst in the play.

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Analyse Priestley's use of inspector Goole as a catalyst in the play. 'An Inspector Calls' was first presented in this country at the New Theatre on the 1st of October 1946. Although it was written in the forties it was set in 1912. During the years between these dates, Britain had been involved in two wars which affected the world greatly and had disrupted the old order, changing society and people's views. Order is one of the central themes within the play. Priestley believed that responsibility had to be shared by all, and responsibility is another theme within An Inspector Calls. In Act One Mr Birling proclaims, 'I can't accept any responsibility'. In the play Priestley uses the character of the inspector to warn his audience not to put too much faith in outdated values and to accept responsibility for actions. At the beginning of the play Arthur Birling tells Gerald Croft and Eric that, 'a man has to mind his own business and look after himself'. Priestley is priming the audience for the main action of the play. Priestley himself was interested in how the human mind works. His fascination with the mind is explored in 'An Inspector Calls'. Priestley uses the character of the mysterious inspector to penetrate the private thoughts and conscience of the other characters within the play, quite early in the play we hear Shelia expressing the following opinion, 'But these girls aren't cheap labour- they're people'. ...read more.


Inquiries of this sort, for instance'. Again this is deliberate as Priestley needs a character that can take control of a situation in order to make people think carefully about the way they behave. Throughout the opening scenes of the play inspector Goole interrogates the other characters, he tells them, 'It's my duty to ask questions'. Their responses to his questioning show that they are considering decisions and actions they made in the past. Inspector Goole is the catalyst for the evening's events: he is described as creating, 'an impression of massiveness, solidity, and purposefulness'. He brings these qualities in to the way he conducts his enquiry. He claims to know very little, 'I see. Mr Croft is going to marry Miss Sheila Birling? He cleverly draws conclusions from the most secretive and hypocritical of people such as Mrs Birling. We learn that Sheila Birling regards the inspector, 'wonderingly and dubiously!' She notes that no one told the inspector anything he did not already know. Priestley created the character of the inspector in such a way so that the audience would find him credible. We are told that inspector Goole had a, 'disconcerting habit of looking hard at the person he addresses.' This makes the other characters nervous, Mr Birling in Act One tells the Inspector, 'I don't like that tone'. Consequently their nervousness would make the audience believe they had something to hide, or were involved in the death of Eva Smith. ...read more.


It is not until the final scene when he receives the telephone call to say an Inspector is about to arrive, 'a police inspector is on his way here - to ask some - questions' that he realises that they will have to go through a repeat of the evening's events. The Inspector lets the audience and characters know that although Arthur Birling started it all they are all responsible for the death of Eva Smith. The Inspector delivers the message that Priestley wants the audience to understand, that of shared responsibility. Priestly uses the role of the Inspector as a dramatic device. He is the narrator and he unifies the structure of the play. For the audience the Inspector sums up what has happened so far, 'But just remember this. One Eva Smith has gone - but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths'. When the enquiry appears to be going off track he steers it back again. He annoys and irritates Mr and Mrs Birling with his comments and questions. The way in which he interrogates them is very good and this style gets them to supply information to him which they would not normally disclose. The Inspector becomes tough when he has to. We see him coming in to direct confrontation with Arthur Birling; he never gives up because his sole purpose is to make the characters understand that they must take responsibility for their actions. He is the perfect catalyst for this as this was Priestley's main intention when he wrote the play. ...read more.

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