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Examine the role of the Inspector in J. B. Priestley's 'An Inspector calls'.

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Introduction

Examine the role of the Inspector in J. B. Priestley's 'An Inspector calls' By definition, the word Inspector is '1. An official appointed to inspect. 2. A police officer ranking between a sergeant and chief Inspector.' Whilst a normal Inspector is there to find the perpetrator of a crime, the Inspector in this play appears to be there for very different reasons. The Birlings, Arthur, Sybil, Sheila, Eric and Gerald Croft, are celebrating Sheila and Gerald's engagement, everyone is in a happy and joyful mood. Arthur is lecturing them all on how everything will be all right. Birling - page 7 * You'll be living in a world that would have forgotten all these capital versus Labour agitations and all these silly little war scares. He also says that there will not be a war, the Titanic is unsinkable and that a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own. This is dramatic irony as the audiences of this play have probably lived through these events. Suddenly the doorbell rings and the Inspector enters. This happens at such a crucial point, almost to save Arthur Birling from embarrassing himself in front of the cast and post-war audience of 1945. At first, the Inspector appears to be like any ordinary Inspector of that time, Stage directions - page 11 * A man in his fifties, dressed in a plain darkish suit of the period. ...read more.

Middle

He is there to give them all a vitally important message and it can not be confused, he speaks with a sense of authority and his disconcerting habit is very intimidating. If he does not behave in this way, he may not be taken as seriously and so his message will not be noticed. On the stage, the Inspector must appear real, at first there must be no mistake in his identity, these stage directions ensure this. Stage directions - page 11 * Creates at once an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness. He seems to fill the whole stage, the characters may not notice him at first, but the audiences certainly do! It is very important that he appears to be real as questions may be asked about his identity and existence before he leaves. He has a job to do, he is there for a purpose, and it is not a social call! The Inspector questions each of the Birlings and Gerald Croft individually and in very different ways. Not necessarily in the way an Inspector would traditionally ask questions relating to a suicide. Inspector - page 12 * One person and one line of enquiry at a time. He wants to be in control of the enquiry. If everyone is talking at once, key details may be missed out. The Inspector changes his style of questioning depending on who he is talking to. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Inspector knows that the younger ones are more impressionable, and that they will learn that they have done wrong. I think that it is most important for Sheila, Gerald and Eric to acknowledge their responsibility and to change, so that they will go on to teach other people that 'a man looking after himself and his own' is not necessarily right. The Inspector in this play has several functions, he acts as 'the story teller' linking the separate incidents together, he supplies dates and small details to fill in the background. He most probably already knows all of the details that the Birlings have to share with each other, but he persuades them to reveal things that they would rather were not known. Another function is to encourage the characters to accept some responsibility for the poor girl's death. In conclusion, the role of the Inspector in this play does not appear to be ordinary. While a normal Inspector would be there to establish the facts pointing to the perpetrator of a crime, the Inspector in this play is there to give the message that a man simply 'looking after himself and his own' is the wrong attitude in the post war world. In short, he wants to invoke a social conscience in the post war era, where people would look after each other, and think about how their actions can effect other people. The Inspector acts as J.B Priestley's mouthpiece; he disagrees with the class system, and wants change. Jo Denyer 10D1 ...read more.

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