Discuss the presentation of the Inspector in 'An Inspector Calls'.
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Discuss the presentation of the Inspector in 'An Inspector Calls' John B Priestly, 20th century author and playwright, lived from 1894 to 1984. Famous for being a politically charged writer, Priestly wrote critically about the social class system that was present in the Edwardian times. The rigid divisions between the different classes created a huge gap between the rich and poor. Being the ardent socialist that he was, Priestly felt strongly about these divisions and believed in equality, shared responsibility and unity between all people. A lot of his writings subtly demonstrate Priestley's views on socialism. An example of this is his short play 'An Inspector Calls'. Set in an industrial city in the Midlands, the play was written in 1945 - thirty-three years after the play was set. By setting the play in 1912, Priestly had the advantage of incorporating a lot of dramatic irony into the play. Another advantage of setting the play more than thirty years previously is that the audience will have a more distant point of view of the play, thus giving them a more critical stance of the characters. Priestly wrote the play to provoke thought and to challenge complacency. Written in just one week, (a matter of days after the World War II had finished,) Priestly wanted his play to be in production as soon as possible.
The systematic way in which he deals with each character at a time builds tension into the play; as the Inspector gradually unravels each character's history, the structure appears (on a basic level) that of a 'whodunit'. Another technique used, which is typical of a play in a 'whodunit' genre, is the use of cliff-hangers at the end of each act. The effect that these climaxes have is the vast amount tension, (incorporated into the play for the audience, whose interests are sustained by their desire to find out who is responsible for the death of Eva Smith.) It will never be known who and even what the Inspector was, and it's doubtful that Priestley knew this himself, however there are several possibilities to explore. On surface level the purpose of the Inspector was to find out the truth about Eva Smith and then the reader would question was he a real police inspector or perhaps an impostor. But when reading deeper into 'An Inspector Calls' we begin to question whether the Inspector was, in his omniscience, something more. There is no right or wrong answer as to why the Inspector appeared at the Birlings that day as it is fictitious play, however one possibility which seems to be considered, (taking into account Priestley's strong socialist views,) was that the Inspector was no more of an official than you or I; is it possible Priestley's intension was to make each character realise the consequences of their actions and what effects they have on other people?
The fact that Mrs Birling has attempted to pass the blame on to her husband demonstrates the effect the Inspector has on the family - he is playing them off on one another. By act three there is a huge amount of friction between the characters - the Inspector has again tactfully made them turn against each other, emphasising just how conceited they all are. Inspector Goole has such an immense impact on the whole Birling family. Whether it be his daunting appearance, his peculiar mannerisms, his abrasive attitude or his thought-provoking words, Goole changes every character in some way or another, making them all look at themselves and consider their actions. He strips them all of their names, their frivolities and arrogant attitudes until they are nothing but guilt-ridden, remorseful and ashamed. Being the driving force of the play, the Inspector gradually and systematically unravels the truth whilst constantly reinforcing the Birling's responsibility for the death of the young woman. Priestley's socialist values are easy to depict through the character of Inspector Goole as he frequently emphasises the importance of unity between the social classes. Personally I think it is obvious that the Inspector didn't turn up that evening to find out the truth about each character's involvement with Eva Smith / Daisy Renton, but to make them realise how their complacent perspectives, pompous attitudes and foolish actions can cause the most drastic consequences.
This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE J.B. Priestley section.
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