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Examine the function and symbolism of the Inspector

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Examine the function and symbolism of the Inspector in the play - 'An Inspector Calls', and explain how Priestly makes him 'dramatically effective' Throughout the play 'An Inspector Calls', by J.B Priestley, the audience sees the role of a mysterious investigator who interrogates a powerful and upper-middle class family: The Birling's. Priestley uses the role of the Inspector to expose the characters in the play, and to put his own views across about the Birling's and their conservative beliefs. The play was written in 1946 and set in the spring of 1912. This means that the audience would have known the future events (the two world wars). Therefore they are in a position to judge the characters beliefs. At the start of the play, Priestley describes the Dining room, in which all of the acts in the play take place. He writes, 'the dining room of a fairly large suburban house, belonging to a prosperous manufacturer. It has good solid furniture of the period. The general effect is substantial and heavily comfortable, but not cosy and homelike'. This tells the audience that the Birling's are wealthy as they live in a presumably large and expensive house. It also shows that the setting of the play is very formal by saying that the effect of the room is not cosy and homelike. The description of the furniture acts as a metaphor for the family, being 'solid' and not loving and affectionate. Priestley writes that before the Inspector enters the lighting, 'should be pink and intimate', and that once the Inspector does enter the light should be brighter and harder. ...read more.


He unsettles Sheila by appealing to her morality and through using emotive language. Sheila mentions that the sort of girls her father sacked 'aren't just cheap labour, they're people'. This portrays how different the attitudes are between the generations and how she can sympathise with the young girls situation. Sheila seems to begin to understand the Inspector and believes him to be 'omniscient'. The audience is shown this when Sheila enters and says 'you knew it was me all along, didn't you?' Through Sheila's confession we learn that she feels remorse for what she's done, and that one of the inspector's aims has been achieved. Sheila co-operates with the Inspector by understanding that she abused her social status by getting the girl sacked. She admits her remorse to the powerful inspector. Sheila understands and accepts her guilt, showing the reader that she does have a conscience. As Sheila continues to express her 'desperate sorrow', the audience sees that she learning more of the Inspector's power. Sheila says to the rest of her family that he is, 'giving us rope - so we can hang ourselves'. From this sentence the audience learns of how Sheila fully understands what the Inspector is doing and realises that he is not questioning them about just Eva Smith, but about how all of them live their lives in general. The audience learns later on in the play that the Inspector respects Sheila for her honesty and regret. The Inspector is using Sheila as an agent through which he can convey his opinions and thoughts. ...read more.


Everything we said had happened really had happened. If it didn't end tragically, then that's lucky for us. But it might have done.' From this sentence the audience can plainly see just how much Sheila has learnt, about you should treat people all equally, and should not use the fact that you are wealthy to make other peoples lives miserable. The reader begins too see that the Birling's all have very superficial values, and that without the inspector they would probably have gone on remaining abusing and hypocritical forever. As the family continue to argue lightly, the final twist in the inspector's role comes into light. With the announcement, 'a girl has just died, on her way the infirmary', we see the Birlings worst nightmare become reality. They stand there guiltily as the play draws to a close. Throughout the play 'An Inspector Calls', JB Priestley uses the role of the inspector to try and show how the rich can abuse their position and how community should be respected so that all people can be treated equally. The inspector plays the role of a Freudian analyst, in the sense that he gets people to reveal their inner motivations that are hidden even to themselves. The inspector shows how everyone should live, and we should all respect and value one another. It is not important that he was not a real inspector; he was an example set for everyone to follow. Through the inspector we have been shown Priestley's beliefs on honesty, equality and being just. The inspector has shown that everyone lives in one big community, so we should treat one another with the respect they deserve. Luke Guinness 10G Page 1 of 5 ...read more.

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