The inspector is an embodiment of all Priestley’s socialist views, in which “we are all of one body.” And “we are responsible for each other” not just ourselves. Given that the inspector is an incarnation of all the principles priestly believes are right he is the prevailing power in all situations and always portrayed to be fair and just, (right). “There was nothing wrong with what she was doing. They admitted that.” Priestley leaves no room for the inspector’s opinion to be questioned. His point is backed up with an independent affirmation; this means that in the eyes of the audience; he must be correct.
Priestley uses the character of the inspector to alter the on-stage “””””. The inspector shows no respect towards the Birlings “reputation”. Answering Mr. Birling bluntly “no.” is evidence that the inspector has no fear of the consequences that may occur if he crosses Mr. Birling.
Priestly uses dramatic irony to enforce his point: the inspector, as he represents socialism, is always right. He also uses dramatic irony to make Mr. Birling, who symbolize capitalism (a self-prosperous ideology which Priestly strongly opposes.), appear extremely arrogant and foolish in comparison, to a comical extent. ”There is a lot of wild talk of possible labour trouble in the future. Don’t worry.” The audience are fully aware that not only will there be labour trouble in the near future but there will be two world wars. This makes Birling appear totally naive and idiotic compared to the inspector who knowledgably states “ I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men do not learn that lesson, then they will be taught in fire and anguish and blood!” un like Mr. Birling the inspectors prediction is blatantly completely correct. He predicts that there will be great suffering. What, to the Birlings would have seemed like exaggeration, proceeded to only make the inspector more correct as there was not only one war but two. There was not only suffering but, severe suffering anguish and loss of life. Priestley is also expressing, through the inspector, his opinion that capitalist practice was the cause of the wars, (because these “men” did not change their ways).
As the plot develops the inspector is presented as somewhat of a father figure to the two members of the younger generation (Shelia and Gerald). Although their first instinct is to fear this atypical man, whose philosophy and teachings completely contradicted all they had ever been taught and revealed the cracks in not just their father’s opinions but the basis and foundation that their family is built on. To be afraid of the only man who had outwardly ignored her father’s political banter and seemed to know too much to be normal: “I hate to think how much he knows that we don’t know yet. You’ll see. You’ll see.” Shelia’s reptilian of “you’ll see” indicates a deep foreboding, and also highlights Shelia’s acute analysis of the situation in hand. Shelia is able to interpret more than her father and mother, she can tell that this man knows more than any of them could ever imagine, however has Sheila has not yet developed the confidence to outwardly say this.
By the end of act two both Eric and Shelia’s eyes have been opened to the inspector’s socialist message. They have come accustom to his unusual manner and are no longer uncomfortable with the fact that the inspector does not seem to respect their father in the way of most. They (Shelia especially) have started to empathise with those of other classes and, with the inspector’s encouragement, have realised that being of a different class does not mean you can’t feel: “don’t you understand? And if I could help her now I would.” Shelia. “Why should she not try for higher wages? We try for the highest prices possible.” Eric. Shelia is repenting and regretting her actions provoked by capitalism. Even though it benefited her she is letting go of capitalism and considering the hurt her actions caused, even if it made her feel better. Eric is adopting socialist views and questioning his father’s business ethics. They are both begging to grasp the fact that there father (capitalism) is most certain not always right.
By the end of the play the inspector, Eric and Sheila are all presented in similar lights, all on the side of socialism. They are each being used as socialist mouth piece, meaning the affirmative message of socialism gets clearer and stronger as the play draws to a close. “The money is not important; it’s what happened to the girl and what we all did.” Eric. “That’s just how I feel Eric. They don’t seem to understand.” Shelia. They have turned not against their own parents and capitalist principles. By the time the curtain falls Priestley, with the character of the inspector, has transformed the younger generation into fully fledged socialists. Shelia leaves her materialistic ways to become independent in her own views. She leans towards feminism, refusing to take up her traditional place in society (marriage to Gerald). This has further political reference as the suffragette movement was very active at the time of the play. Priestley’s character of the inspector allows Shelia and Gerald to leave their stereo-types and mature into free thinking independent people with their own opinion. “I remember what he said and the way it made me feel.” They are not easily going to go back to the way they were.
The revelation that the inspector was in fact not an inspector generates the question: who or in fact what is inspector Goole? From his first entry into the play, just his name “Goole, G-O-O-L-E” stirs thoughts of the supernatural. His mysterious and unbelievably well timed entrance; endless source of impossible information, lack of background history and seemingly average appearance all stimulate and air of mystery. The word Goole is associated with death and horror and therefore i am sure it is not a coincidence that priestly chose this name for a character that brings news and an excruciating and disturbing suicide. Form the very first introduction of the inspector priestly wants the audience to be subconsciously processing the name and casually registering the fact that: This character is more than first assumed.
The manner in which the inspector speaks and way in which he behaves is complex mix of unprofessional and professionalism: “Burnt her insides out of course.” he uses shocking, blunt, monosyllabic words, obviously aiming for optimum impact and to jolt the Birlings into paying attention. The use of the phrase: “of course” trivialises the subject of death and makes the idea of severe pain and tragedy casual and approachable. In this way the inspector seems removed from human emotion, talking of death with un natural ease. He is not acting as a common police inspector who would most certainly approach the subject cautiously, he pointedly, without warning starts out: “two hours ago a young woman died in an infirmary.” The inspector, though professional in his purposefulness, seems excessively eager to quickly supply ruthless details to be altogether normal not to mind professional.
Priestly intentionally does not give you any information of background about the inspector; you are left to make your own uncertain presumptions, and results in you continually questioning: exactly who he is. When he first enters the play, the use of brief, short to the point sentences mean that the audience is given no clue to who he is. “You’re new aren’t you?” Mr. Birling. “Only recently transferred.” The Inspector. This empty reply gives no detail in fact it hardly provides sufficient information to be a legitimate response. Where in the case of most characters Priestley would have used this question as an opportunity to reveal and explain a little more about the character; in the case of the inspector he uncovers nothing. This pattern stays constant throughout the play. Moments where questions about the inspector may arise are avoided; if unavoidable the reply is as concise and vague as possible.
The inspector may have been exposed as a fake; however this does not change the phenomenal, if not temporary effect he had on the Birlings (and Eric). He is used as a moral inspector. “He was our police inspector alright.” Eric. Eric is referring to the effect the inspector had on the atmosphere in Birling household and the disturbance he caused in what was a happily shallow and ignorant socialist family. He is contrasting political ideology that questions all that the Birling stood for. The character of the inspector is used to conger doubt of the Birlings ideal of perfection in the minds of the younger generation and the audience.