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What is the Inspector's role in J.B Priestley's play: "An Inspector Calls"?

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Introduction

What is the Inspector's role in J.B Priestley's play: "An Inspector Calls"? Priestley uses the inspector in his play "An Inspector Calls" to portray his views of the class system at the time and show his own observations and views of the political unrest of the period. Written in 1945 but set in 1912, which was the year of the sinking of the Titanic, "An Inspector Calls" gave Priestly a medium through which to express his socialist values and disrespect for capitalism. Indeed, the sinking of the Titanic and the reference made to it in the play is symbolic of capitalist shortcomings. The play is centred on the death of a young girl whom the individuals of the Birling family knew. The investigation of her death by the play's protagonist, the Inspector, leads to a number of social and moral questions being asked not only of the characters directly but also of the audience of the play at the time it was first performed (Post war Britain, where a socialist government and country was being born out of a largely Capitalist system.) ...read more.

Middle

The Inspector is calm throughout, even when others are becoming agitated or upset which is most apparent in his parting words to the Birling household: "You can't even say 'I'm sorry, Eva Smith.'" Sheila interjects, "crying quietly"; "That's the worst of it" The inspector ignores this to continue to deliver his final lines which are a direct contradiction to Birling's sentiments in the play's opening : "a man has to mind his own business and look after himself" contrasted with the Inspector's lines : "We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other" Here, the inspector sums up the moral aspect of the investigation and leaves without pursuing any charges, suggesting that the inspector is more concerned with right and wrong than legal minutiae. His parting words are more akin to those of a preacher leaving a pulpit than those of an inspector concluding his investigation. He has a mysterious quality and it becomes apparent during the play that he is no ordinary police inspector. The Inspector appears omniscient, emphasised at the end of act one in the raising of his status with the use of the single word interrogative "well?". ...read more.

Conclusion

Priestly here uses dramatic irony, as the audience know that the in 1940 there was a World War in progress. So, to Priestley's audience who may have been able to connect to this speech given by Birling, as one they themselves received this is a call to arms! The beginning of a socialist revolution, which Priestley is howling for with the inspectors' message that this essay described ("They will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish") In conclusion, the Inspector's role in the play is crucial. Despite us never truly finding out who or what "Inspector" Goole is, it is evident that it is he who gives the play momentum. Through Goole, Priestly shows how one persons actions affect another, and that we cannot exist as individuals in society. Priestly uses him to portray his own views of the class system and his disgust of capitalism. The audience's, and indeed, the Birling's preconceptions of an Inspector's role of a law enforcer are altered as they are presented with an Inspector more interested in the moral ethics of the situation. Perhaps he is unusual in his approach as a Police Inspector, nonetheless he is certainly effective in his role as a medium through which Priestly can display his societal views. 2nd Draft Wil Pate 2nd Draft Wil Pate 1/5 1/5 ...read more.

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