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The Function of the Inspector in the Play, 'An Inspector Calls'.

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Arjun Mehta 4C2 1st December 2003 The Function of the Inspector in the Play, 'An Inspector Calls' The Inspector is the backbone of the play and orchestrates the entire storyline. He is described on his entrance as creating 'an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness.' symbolising the fact that he is an unstoppable force within the play. His 'disconcerting habit of looking hard at the person he addresses before speaking' gives the impression that he sees through surface appearances to the real person beneath. He is also a figure of authority, dealing with each member of the family very firmly and several times he 'massively' takes charge as arguments erupt between them. Many things about the Inspector's manner and character make the realism of his character as an inspector unbelievable. The Inspector arrives just after Mr Birling has spoken about his views on life, that every man must only look out for himself. The Inspector's views, however, clearly contrast with these, and throughout the play he demonstrates how people are responsible for the future and lives of others. This is conveyed dramatically in his final speech, when he says, 'we are members of one body. We are responsible for each other'. ...read more.


Finally, he could also be seen as a dramatic device, the character that controls the pace and tension of the play and slowly unravelling the story of Eva's life as a catalyst for the play's events. However, there is no certain interpretation of the Inspector, and he could be any of the previous interpretations or a combination of any of them. The Inspector has an enormous impact on the play itself. His appearance suddenly alters the mood of the play, turning the evening from a joyful celebration to an evening of confession and punishment for each of the characters. This impact is extremely clear when the state of the characters before the Inspector's arrival is compared to their state after his departure. At the start of the play, the characters are all lively and happy, chatting amiably with one another. However, when the Inspector leaves, there is a great deal of tension and hostility between the members of the Birling family, and 'Sheila is still crying. Mrs Birling has collapsed into a chair. Eric is brooding desperately.' During his interrogation, the Inspector attacks each of the characters very rapidly, giving them little time to think and pushing them straight into their confession. ...read more.


Its purpose was to communicate Priestley's controversial, socialist views to the audience and this was achieved through the Inspector. In the Inspector's final speech, Priestley addresses both the audience and characters on stage. Throughout the play, Priestley attempts to explain to the audience that they must change their views, and accept some responsibility for the lives and fate of others, in order to avoid the "fire and blood and anguish" of the two previous world wars. According to him, it was the selfish attitude of people like Mr Birling, who believed that one cannot "accept responsibility for everything that happened to everybody", that causes wars and conflicts. The Inspector has an important role and function in the play. At the start of the play, he is accepted as a real character, but gradually, throughout the play, his credibility as a real inspector and physical human character disappears. The mystery of the Inspector remains unsolved, and adds a new and interesting dimension to the play. He also has an exceptionally significant impact on the play and quickly alters the atmosphere of the play. His primary function as a character is to lead the audience through the life of Eva, and teach the characters on stage and more importantly the audience that each and every one of us is a member of the same body and we are all "responsible for each other". ...read more.

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