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Discuss the Role of the Inspector in J. B. Priestley's Play: "An Inspector Calls."

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Introduction

GCSE ENGLISH LITERATURE ASSIGNMENT. Discuss the Role of the Inspector in J. B. Priestley's Play: "An Inspector Calls." The play is set in 1912, in a well-to-do household in Brumley. The family who live there, and are later subjected to the Inspectors' questions, are the Birlings. Arthur Birling is the father, Sybil Birling his wife, Sheila his daughter and Eric, his youngest son and heir to the family business. Also present is Mr. Gerald Croft, who is engaged to Sheila. The audience are first introduced to the family in the dining room where they have just finished a celebratory meal in honour of the forthcoming marriage of Sheila and Gerald. The engagement is significant to analyse because it is an opportunity for the Birlings to become business allies with the Crofts. It is convenient that Gerald is getting married to Sheila because it creates a good chance to increase the profit, wealth and prosperity of both families. This shows Arthur to be quite a calculating, devious gentleman who considers his own business and social image above all else. The timing of the Inspector's arrival is important. Arthur is lecturing Eric and Gerald on the importance of a man looking out for his own interests and well being. The inspector's arrival punctuates Birling's capitalist pontificating and later reveals it to be complacent and mildly ignorant: "... ...read more.

Middle

We can form a number of preliminary judgements from this statement, and it also allows us to remove a section of the mysterious cloak surrounding the Inspector. We could assume that the Inspector is a man with a social conscience, who cares for those around him. He could also be seen to be a socialist, one who believes all people are equal; unlike Birling, who is a radical capitalist - he believes in the upper classes presiding over the common people. This political opinion was quite common in the early 1900's and was regarded by those in the higher social classes to be the correct and proper one. Socialism is the belief in a unified society, where all people are socially the same. If we were to compare the Inspector and Birling to modern day political figures we could use a number of obvious examples. The most prominent comparison being that Birling is similar to Margaret Thatcher and the Inspector is, while not as extreme in his political views, in some ways similar to Karl Marx: "There are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, and what we think and say and do. We don't live alone. ...read more.

Conclusion

They are disgusted by their parents' nonchalant attitude towards the nights' events. Arthur and Sybil Birling disregard the Inspector's visit when Gerald announces that it could have been a hoax. They are relieved that their social status will not be damaged and that no one will ever know about the things they have done. Sheila has an altered outlook on life, and tries to make all of the other characters realise that whether or not the man who visited their house was a real inspector, he still managed to reveal many dark secrets about each character. By doing this he allowed them to see each other in a new light. The two endings are to re-enforce the message that the characters cannot be sure of anything. They initially thought that when the Inspector left their social status would be fine and intact. However, as Birling is celebrating the audience may feel that the capitalists have once again beaten the masses, the phone rings. I feel that this is to allow the audience a glimpse of hope, reiterating the fact that even though you think that you cannot win, there is always hope. The socialists appear to win in this play, however the battle is always ongoing. Socialist. Capitalist. Communist. Democrat. It is all politics, and 'An Inspector Calls' is merely a way of expressing those opinions in an artistic form. Maybe there are a few more Inspectors among us, waiting to speak out. Who knows? M.Backhouse 16/11/00 ...read more.

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