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"How far is the Inspector an 'embodiment of a collective conscience' (Gareth Lloyd Evans)?" Consider the Ways in Which JB Priestley Develops the Inspector's 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 JB Priestley Develops the Inspector's Dramatic Impact in the Play In this essay I will consider the way in which JB Priestley presents the character of the Inspector and how he develops his role throughout the play. I will study the Inspectors role through each Act, in detail, and the effect of his presence and questioning on the Birling Family group. I will also look at how far Priestley displays the Inspector as 'an embodiment of a collective conscience'. In Act One, from the point of entry the Inspector begins to affect the family group. He enters at a critical point during Mr. Birling's speech when he sums up his ideas and thoughts on how "A man has to mind his own business and look after his own" (p.10). This speech shows Birling for who he really is; rather pompous, opinionated, bombastic and self-centered, and also makes the audience aware that he will be the main opposition to the Inspector. As soon as the Inspector enters the atmosphere of the room changes, Priestley shows in the stage directions that 'the lighting should be pink and intimate until the Inspector arrives, and then it should be brighter and harder'. ...read more.

Middle

The tension builds as Mrs. Birling tries to shun her responsibility and is unaware of what is going to happen next. Also, Priestley made it so that the Inspector interrogated Mrs. Birling before Eric, when if in the correct chronological order it should have been the other way, to create suspense. The implications become clear, everyone is involved. Eric is the father of Eva's child. By the end of this Act the Inspector has full control over the family and there is a reversal of roles. The Inspector is the one giving the orders, even a silent hand gesture manages to silence the family. Mr. Birling is no longer bombastic but worried; he looks a fool and cannot express himself. He has lost his authority and shows fear at finding the truth out of his control. "Don't stammer and yammer at me again, man."(p.46). The Inspector has had a dramatic effect on Sheila especially, and Gerald whereas the older generation, even though badly shaken, still don't quite seem to grasp the concept of the Inspectors presence. In Act Three Eric returns and the whole story is revealed. Realisation finally dawns for the Birling's, especially for Mrs. Birling who thought her family was above any scandal like this and the audience can begin to sense the alienation of Eric from the family. ...read more.

Conclusion

(p.24). He knows all about Eva Smith's past life and what the Birling's have done and never seems surprised or shocked by what he hears. Even though the Inspector is supposed to be a police officer he always seems more concerned about morality than legality, for example he doesn't make a single move at finding out that Eric has been stealing. Overall I can see that Inspector Goole is 'an embodiment of a collective conscience (Gareth Lloyd Evans) because he is there to represent the characters' conscience and make them think about what they have done in the past, and make them feel guilty. Not only does he represent the consciences of the characters but Priestley has written it so that it makes the audience question their own conscience and the way they treat others. The Inspector is mysterious and seems quite supernatural, so it makes you wonder if he is real at all. This should support the idea that he represents their conscience because if he was a real person how would he know all that information about each character. Therefore I think the Inspector is the voice of all our consciences especially Priestley's and he was trying to teach the characters and the audience about how to treat others and take responsibility for their actions. ...read more.

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