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What is the function of the Inspector?

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Introduction

What is the function of the Inspector? JB Priestly wrote 'An Inspector Calls' in 1945. It's a play that is set in 1912 in the industrial town of Brumley. The story follows the Birling family as an inspector calls and manipulates each of them into revealing their secrets. The family and their guest, Gerald Croft, are sitting down to dinner, celebrating the recent engagement of Sheila Birling to Gerald Croft when an enigmatic inspector interrupts them. He tells them of a girl who committed a gruesome suicide and suggests that each of them is partly responsible. Throughout the play he cleverly encourages them to admit their connection with the girl and confess their bad deeds. The family then find out the inspector is a fake and had tricked them all into spilling their secrets. At the end of the play they receive a phone call from an inspector who wishes to question them on the suicide of a girl. This mysterious ending causes the audience to question who the inspector really is. 'I was a writer-poet, story-teller, humorist, commentator, social philosopher, at least in my own estimation.' This is how Priestly defines himself, and on occasion some of these traits come through in his writing. JB Priestly introduces a strong socialist theme and makes political comments through his characters. The word 'inspector' suggests someone that looks at things closely, and this is his role in the events of the play. ...read more.

Middle

Mr. Birling an extreme capitalist and his character is so strongly disliked, the audience is instinctively inclined to disagree with what he says. "A man has to mind his own business and take care of his own" It encourages them to think negatively about capitalism and consequently this capitalist comment is discredited. The Inspector is portrayed as a respectable and kind man. He is not selfish but thinks a lot about other people. When he has finished questioning Sheila he notices that she is feeling guilty "She feels responsible" and he makes a point of protecting her feelings by explaining that it is the entire families fault and not only her own. "Public men, Mr. Birling, have responsibilities of their own." This makes his character likeable to the audience. As the audience likes his character and he is socialist, they're subconsciously encouraged to support socialist views. One of the main themes in the play is this idea of social responsibility. The inspector makes numerous references to it in his final speech. "We are responsible for each other". Here, Preistly is talking with reference to the upper classes taking responsibility for the lower classes and providing them with financial support. Priestly highlighted the fact that there were a lot of poor women who needed help by including the Brumley Women's Charity Organisation in his play. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, the characters from the elder generation are determined to stay stuck in their ways and are unable to agree with socialism. "You're the one I blame for this" Mr. Birling is insistent that none of it is his fault and continues to point the blame at other people. The Inspector finishes his final speech by saying: "... they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish". He is suggesting that anyone who doesn't adopt the socialist view will be severely punished. As fire, blood and anguish all have connotations to war or hell, that is what he foretells will become of their future. Once he has finished his speech, he abruptly walks off which leaves the characters speechless and in turn makes the scene more dramatic. "He walks straight out, leaving them staring subdued and wondering." It makes the audience take more notice of what the inspector has said because the characters are so stunned at his departure. The Inspector asks a lot of questions and unearths a lot of secrets. He is used as a device to tell the story, like a narrator. His role is to ask questions "it is my duty to ask questions" and to encourage the characters to reveal their secrets and misdeeds. He doesn't give us any information but without the Inspector, neither would the characters. The characters admit to their actions and by doing this they are given the chance to question themselves, society and their responsibility to society. In this way the Inspector is promoting honesty and introspection. ...read more.

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