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The Inspector - Man or Metaphor

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Introduction

Beth Ridley The Inspector - Man or Metaphor "An Inspector calls" was set in 1917, a time of contentment prior to World War 1. This smugness is reflected in the Birling family but is soon disturbed by the inspector. We realise this character is far more than an ordinary policeman from the very beginning. The audience recognises this because of his abrupt arrival, his name (Goole) and the way his behaviour changes the mood of the party. At the beginning of the play in the stage directions it says "the lighting should be pink and intimate until the Inspector arrives, and then it should be brighter and harder." This is changing the atmosphere. Priestley says that he has a "disconcerting habit" of looking at people, making it obvious that Priestley intended the inspector to be seen as sinister. The Birlings feel that they have only the need to bother with themselves and not care about anyone else this Priestley underlines with the "sharp" sound of a doorbell. At this point the family is having a party to celebrate the engagement of Gerald and Sheila. Birling sees this narrow minded, as a business arrangement. ...read more.

Middle

He seems more interested in making an impression on the family then what will happen to them next. In a real situation wouldn't the police officer tell the Birling's what is to occur ahead? When Inspector Goole says, "Some things are left to me, inquiries of this sort for instance." It can be interpreted that the Inspector has categorised the inspection already. He has anticipated everything about it. Also, he commented that he "wouldn't know where to draw the line" between "respectable citizens" and criminals. What does he know already? The Inspector may be able to see into the future. This might be a reason why the Inspector could be other than human. In books and stories children and animals are meant to be the ones who realize when something isn't quite right or is supernatural. Sheila, despite being a young woman has been treated like a little girl. Mr and Mrs Birling try to protect her from the outside world but she is about to get married and being narrow minded they seem to not grasp that she is no longer a child. Sheila is the only person who feels something strange about the Inspector. ...read more.

Conclusion

One of the main puzzling things about Inspector Goole was his foreknowledge of Eva's death. His ability to see into the future and intimate knowledge of Smith's life (despite he never spoke to her,) was defiantly not human. Although he does claim to have seen "a brief diary." So if he is not a person, what is he? He predicts a massive social catastrophe ("fire and blood and anguish") clearly refers for the Birlings, to the First World War and for the audience, to both World Wars. If we see this play metaphorically it doesn't matter who the Inspector is, instead we look at what he is representing. The Inspector talks about millions of Eva and John Smiths suggesting that the dead girl represented other victims in society. The Birlings stand for the bad qualities in humanity e.g. greed and lack of charity and Priestley suggests that we need to look after everyone in society. The ending is ambiguous. If the Inspector is a supernatural being this is suggested by his melodramatic entrance and prophetic speeches. Inspector Goole is quite portentous. Priestley aimed for his role to connect a series of unrelated events and bring a fellow creature to destruction. The Inspector could have been a sprit of conscience that belonged to everyone's guilt so it becomes a very powerful character. ...read more.

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