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What is the dramatic function of Inspector Goole?

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Daniel Neofetou What is the dramatic function of Inspector Goole? Inspector Goole is an enigma; we never even discover his first name. While the other characters all develop and change in some way from the beginning to the end of the play Goole remains the same, emotionless and determined. He also frequently repeats "I haven't much time", while seemingly having all the time in the world for the inquiry. While spelled differently, Goole is pronounced the same as the word 'ghoul', which means a malevolent spirit or ghost or someone who is unnaturally preoccupied with death. Goole could be interpreted as either of these. He could be seen as some kind of spirit in the way that, after conducting the supposed inquiry he seemingly disappears without trace. He could be seen as a spirit in the way that he acts as conscience to the characters, tormenting them on behalf of the girl. He could be seen as a ghoul in the sense of someone who is obsessed with death in the way that he is investigating the death of a girl and so of course is constantly referring to death. The Inspector guides the characters through their transitions and his messages and speeches apply to society in general just as they apply to the Birling family in particular. The Inspector isn't in the play right from the beginning, he arrives after a first act which exhibits a complacent Birling family celebrating the engagement of Gerald Croft and Sheila Birling. All the way through this act the lighting is "pink and intimate", showing the Birlings are, at least aesthetically, a happy family seemingly safe from harm. ...read more.


This quote is also pointing toward the fact that the inspector isn't in fact an inspector at all. This quote also has a somewhat dark humour and sarcasm to it, he's talking to the Birling family as if they are children and the death of Eva Smith is but a trivial argument. Another quote that reinforces the Inspector's views on responsibility is "Public Men, Mr. Birling, have responsibilities as well as privileges." This quote is implying that, because Birling is in such a position that he has power over others this gives him a duty to take care of the people under his power ad not to abuse his power by mistreating his workers. Mr. Birling has a very different idea of what his duties are, as he indicates earlier in the play when he says, "Well, it's my duty to keep labour costs down." The Inspector's overall views of responsibility are no better summed up than in the speech he makes to the family before he leaves. The family is mostly quite different at this point in the play than at the beginning. Sheila feels deeply guilty for what she did, even though her contribution to the events that drew Eva Smith to commit suicide is quite insignificant compared to the contribution of Eric or Mr. Birling. Mr.Birling, who at the beginning of the play was inclined to believe that giving Eva the sack was the right thing to do has now offered to "give thousands" if it were to erase the past and bring Eva back (This is of course far too late but it does show his attitude has changed). ...read more.


Even by the end of the play it is still not at all clear what or who he is, he might be a spirit or a ghoul as I discussed earlier or he may be just a normal man who did a lot of research into the Birling family and decided to teach them a lesson. His speeches suggest he may even be sent from the future to warn the Birlings and the world in general of the coming disasters and how "they will be taught in fire and blood and anguish." If they do not learn to realise their responsibility for one another, the future theory would also suggest how he knew Eva Smith would die drinking disinfectant. Maybe he doesn't even exist, perhaps he's just the collective conscience of the whole family, who feel the need to admit their sins. He also plays the role of a regular inspector in a normal detective novel, slowly discovering the truth through clever questioning, carefully piecing together evidence until the culprit is revealed. Here, each character is shown to have played a part in her murder, although not one of them has done anything to Eva Smith that a court of law would describe as a crime. The Inspector didn't come to the Birling's house to punish them but to teach them moral lessons by pointing out how the smallest thing that they may have forgotten now may have affected another's life gravely. He succeeded partially, with Eric and Sheila prepared to change, but it seems the older generation were just too set in their ways to listen to his words of advice. ...read more.

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