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How far is the Inspector "an embodiment of a collective conscience" (Gareth Lloyd Evans)? Consider the ways in which J.B. Priestley develops the Inspectors dramatic impact in the play.

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Introduction

How far is the Inspector "an embodiment of a collective conscience" (Gareth Lloyd Evans)? Consider the ways in which J.B. Priestley develops the Inspectors dramatic impact in the play. An Inspector Calls received bad reviews after it was first performed in London 1946, as there was some definite confusion as to who the Inspector really was. Was he your usual police inspector, a fraudster or was he some form of supernatural being? Gareth Lloyd Evans, a critic, said that the Inspector is "an embodiment of a collective conscience". Your conscience can be described as the 'voice within' that tells you when you are doing something wrong, so the Inspector as an embodiment of this would be the physical manifestation of a group of consciences. I will look at how JB Priestley develops the dramatic impact of the Inspector in his language, effect on other characters and overall presence on stage. The entry of the Inspector is both coincidental and important. His entry is timed to be just at the point when Mr Birling is saying how "a man has to mind his own business and look after himself". Before that point the Birlings and Gerald Croft had been having a small and rather self-satisfied celebration of Gerald and Sheila's engagement. Mr Birling's pompous speech is designed to set the audience at unease. J.B Priestley uses dramatic irony with Mr Birling discussing the impossibility of war "we're in for a time of steadily increasing prosperity" which the audience obviously know will follow in later years, as the play is set in 1912. This unease creates the perfect time for Priestley's mysterious Inspector to appear. ...read more.

Middle

It is as if he is there as a 'moral police officer', to make the Birlings and Gerald see what they have done. He is representing Priestley's point of view in his role as this 'moral police officer' by trying to make the Birlings and Gerald see that they must look after one another. Inspector Goole behaves as though he already knows what has happened, or what is to happen, and is only for the Birlings and Gerald to see the error in their ways. You can see this when he replies to Birling's question "Are you sure of your facts?" with "some of them, yes". This shows that he already knows the facts and any normal police officer would not bother to check what he already knew. The Inspector simply wants the others to know. The reason why he made not be sure of all his facts could be because some of them have not actually happened yet, like Eva killing herself. The Inspector's impatience to "get on" and statement that he hasn't "much time" illustrate that he is there before the actual event to make the Birlings and Gerald see what they have done and the moral implications. When a real inspector turns up, after the suicide has actually been committed, he will only want to find out if any of them have actually broken the law. Sheila recognises this supernatural knowledge and authority of the Inspector and tries to warn her mother and Gerald against pretending to be blameless. She can tell he is not just an ordinary Inspector because she says, "He's giving us the rope - so that we'll hang ourselves". ...read more.

Conclusion

It is only Sheila and Eric who realise that they are still guilty "Everything we said had happened really had happened. If it didn't end tragically that's lucky for us". This shows the impact Inspector has made in how they realise now that what they did was wrong, even though there have been no actual consequences. Priestley's final twist is added at the end when Mr Birling answers the phone only to discover that an Inspector is about to arrive to investigate a girl's suicide. This heightens the supernatural theories surrounding the Inspector. Just as the curtain falls and the characters are all left guilty whilst the audience are left wondering whom the Inspector really was and what will happen next. In conclusion I can see that J.B Priestley's Inspector Goole is not just an ordinary inspector but is much more "an embodiment of a collective conscience", perhaps of the Birlings and Gerald or perhaps of all of us. He successfully manages to show the characters the effect they can have in other peoples lives and tells them what they should do. This role of his is asserted in his language, presence and effect that he has upon the other characters. Priestley develops this impact as he goes along uncovering more secrets using the Inspector's catalytic presence. The Inspector is not just there though to make the Birlings feel guilty, he is there as a representative of Priestley's viewpoint. Priestley had strong views and the Inspector is there to show the audience that now, with class divides broken down from the war, we should take this opportunity to do the right thing and take care of one another and realise our social responsibility. 1 Emily Hancox ...read more.

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