How Does Priestley Use The Role Of The Inspector?

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An Inspector Calls

How Does Priestley Use The Role Of The Inspector?


 “An Inspector calls” is a play written by John Boynton Priestley, with many social and political messages . It is based on an upper class family during 1912, whose lives dramatically changes after the events of the arrival of Inspector Goole. The Inspector plays an important role as he adds interest to the audience while dominates the plot of the play, the character also helps Priestley convey the moral. Priestley purpose in writing this play is to affect change in society and the character of the Inspector is very important in achieving this.

Priestley’s play challenges social perception by using Inspector Goole as a social commentator on the actions of the characters in the Birling’s family. The audience are given a glimpse into the lives of a stereotypical successful affluent family in pre war Britain. Priestley also manages to introduce the two most prominent events in English history to occur in the year 1912 as dramatic irony, as the audience already know that world war I took place and the Titanic did sink, which contradicts Birling’s speech at the beginning about the war and the Titanic “I say there isn’t a chance of war” “unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable”. This creates a huge effect on the audience, as it gets them to agree with what the Inspector is saying, as the audience already know that these things have happened. The audience would listen to the views of the Inspector not only because the Inspector is omniscient and the fact that he’s always right but because they would see Mr Birling as unreliable and disregard everything he says, this adds to the authority the Inspector has in the play.

Priestley uses the role of the Inspector as the instigator of development in the play, the Inspector controls the plot of the play, nothing moves along without his say “one person and one line of enquiry at a time”. Also the Inspector often cuts in and stops the Birling’s half way through a sentence, this show his authority because none of them do it to him and none of them say anything to him, its almost as they see him as a danger to there family. This could link to cutting in given that a knife cuts and knives are dangerous. The Inspector’s character is manipulative, he often tells the other characters “to settle things afterwards” to ensure the conversation is following the direction he wants it to. The audience could tell The Inspector was going to dominate the play by his entrance, “creates at once an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness” also by the lights turning from “pink and intimate until the Inspector arrives, and then it should be brighter and harder” by Priestley writing this particular description about the Inspector it leads the audience to perceive that he will have a authoritative role through out the play. Not only does the light get “harder” but so do the Birling’s lives, they discover secrets about each other which breaks down the lovely family environment. At the beginning of the play Mr. Birling has complete control of the situation, he has a number of speeches that reveal a lot about his personality and relate to the social context of the play, but at the arrival of the confident, authoritative figure- the Inspector, he loses that control and the audience as all concentration is on Inspector Goole. The Inspector in ‘An Inspector Calls’ is a ‘mouthpiece’, he is a voice of reason for J.B Priestley, he teaches the audiences Priestley personal morals and social views. The Inspector arrives just after Mr Birling had been saying his view about life “every man must only look out for himself”, this perception on life that Mr. Birling has is the view of life that Priestley want’s to change, he hopes by writing this play that the audience will leave with the words of the Inspector “We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other”. Priestley uses the Inspector to contradict what Mr Birling said in his speeches at the beginning of the play, he does this by having the Inspector demonstrate how people are reasonable for some actions in other peoples live.

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Priestley uses the Inspector to represent the play and the realism of the situation, in the same way as when the Birling’s found out that the Inspector was a hoax and both Mr & Mrs Birling said “This makes a difference, y’know. In fact, it makes all the difference” could be the same reaction the audience in the theatre could have on the play. The audience could go home thinking about the play not being real so not caring about the message about social change that Priestley was trying to get across or they could go home a have learnt a ...

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