'How does Priestly present the character of the Inspector?'

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Urmila Thurairatnam 10S

‘How does Priestly present the character of the Inspector?’

      The play An Inspector Calls was written in 1945 within a week of World War Two ending but is set before World War One. J.B.Priestly wrote this play intentionally as he saw an urgent need for social change and used the play to express his desire for social equality. The time span between the dates used (1945-1912) is to make us aware of what has happened and learn from mistakes made. Priestly hoped his play would give society the chance with hindsight to look back on the past and not just carry on life in the same way as before. J.B.Priestly took full advantage of writing in hindsight and makes sure that it will make the audience realise how wrong they may have been assuming future events.

      The play is set in an industrial city in the Midlands of 1912 concerns a wealthy industrial Arthur Birling, his family, the fiancé Gerald Croft and an Inspector. It shows how the family each help to destroy a young woman’s life-Eva Smith through their selfish and callous attitudes, which results in her death. The play runs parallel to what was happening to society at the time. Each uncaring action/statement is backed up with ensuing consequences. The Play opens with a conversation between Mr Birling and family and Gerald Croft. The family is sitting in their living room celebrating the success of their daughter’s engagement to the son of a businessman of similar status as the Birling family.

      Mr Birling appears to be a hardheaded businessman who is more concerned with high profits then the welfare of his employees. He believes himself to be a fair employer paying only what he had to and no more. If asked for a raise he would say it was his duty to keep costs low and prices high. He thought very highly of himself as he might find his way into the next honours list but regards with contempt the cranks who say that everybody should look after everybody else’s I think that Priestly intended Mr Birling to represent the upper middle class man of the time and the rest of the family to represent the average middle class family. Mr Birling believes that through his experience he knows that there will be no war and as he claims the Titanic is unsinkable the audience can easily understand his foolishness. This is just the start of his message, do not be as foolish as to think just because England has won the war it does not mean that it is safe from trouble, the use of dramatic irony helps to express this. Priestly has given a good description of upper middle class men in the very first act of the play, making sure the audience can relate to Mr Birling as representing the average middle class man. Just as Mr Birling begins to finish his speech saying  

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“A man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own-and”


      A ring of the doorbell interrupts him. When the Inspector calls unexpectedly on the prosperous Birling family his startling revelations not only shatter the very foundations of their lives, but also challenge us all to examine our consciences. The timing of the entrance of the inspector is quite a prominent part of the play. Inspector Goole is portrayed as quite a sinister character that is quite persistent about finding out the truth. He believes in quite the opposite to what ...

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