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Discuss the role of the Inspector in An Inspector Calls

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Discuss the role of the Inspector in Priestley?s ?An Inspector Calls? An Inspector Calls is an allegorical play for which the merits of Socialist values and the shortcomings of a Capitalist society are used to persuade an upper-class family to change their ways. The major character does not belong to the Birling family; rather it is the mercurial Inspector, after whom the play is named, that is the pivotal figure in this play set in 1912. Joseph Priestley himself was a keen advocate of Socialism and it is evident throughout the play that his political convictions are a major theme. In order to determine the role of the Inspector, it is important to analyse the way in which characters respond to his questioning.. The first suggestion that Goole is not an ordinary member of the police occurs early on, during the initial interaction he has with the characters. The Inspector is very resolute with his line of questioning, and does not buckle under the pressure of Mr Birling?s veiled threats. The Inspector replies coolly ?I don?t play golf? when Birling claims to play golf with the Chief Constable. Such indifference in the face of threats given out by a man who has some influence in the town is unusual, especially for someone who is ?only recently transferred?. ...read more.


In the same way J.B Priestley was angered by what he saw as a decadent society that utilised an oppressive economic system to exploit the poor. Another way that the Inspector?s role can be determined is by looking at his intentions in visiting the Birling family. Initially it could be considered that the Inspector is there simply to cause the Birlings to repent for the consequence of their actions relating to the death of Eva Smith. This however is a simplistic view, instead there are ?millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths?, and the Birlings should not just feel sorry for one incident, rather they should consider their whole outlook on life is wrong. The Inspector is there to demonstrate that the death of Eva Smith was not an isolated incident; everyday situations like that happen as a result of the Edwardian society that oppresses the poor. This era was characterised by the great divide between rich and poor. The inequalities of the time were highlighted by the First World War, where slowly society began to realise the need for change. The Inspector also warns that unless such a change occurs, ?they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish.? The use of dramatic hyperbole is unlike anything a normal Inspector would likely say and hence it is more remarkable. ...read more.


The name ?Goole? is a play on the word ?Ghoul?. As well as that it could be considered that ?Inspector? is a reference to a ?spectre?. By interpreting the Inspector as a ghost, this raises similarities to the famous Dickens novel A Christmas Carol. An alternative to this is the possibility that the Inspector is actually a manifestation of a social Conscience. The Inspector attempts to teach the Birlings the importance of social integration and this could be because the Inspector is the voice of a social conscience in human form. Alternatively, the Inspector could actually be Priestley himself. Priestley was a Socialist, and many of the Inspectors ideals are left wing and socialist in nature, such as his firm belief in the need for a change in the socio-economic conditions of the poor. Mr Birling even calls him a ?socialist crank?, a derogatory term. In conclusion, the Inspector severs two roles; firstly he tries to teach the Birling family the importance of social responsibility and secondly he warns of the dire consequences if they do not change during a time in which social constraints were extremely high. The socialist values presented in the text are in accordance to J.B Priestley?s own beliefs and thus the Inspector could be considered to be Priestley himself or a manifestation of social conscience. ...read more.

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