An inspector calls was written by J.B Priestly in the 1940’s. Priestly was born in Bradford, Yorkshire on the 18th of September 1894. He began to write for a newspaper in 1910. The play An Inspector Calls to Priestly a mere one week to write. The play was set in 1912 where the society was very much run by the class system. The play very much establishes the way society ran according to your class. Priestly tries to show this by using lifelike factors of the past in the play.
The play is about the Birling family, a tight knit family of four whose eldest daughter is soon to be married. Arthur Birling, the head of the family is a top factory owner and manager. The Birling family live in a very upper class society. They live very comfortably in a large Edwardian suburban house, in Brumley. They have a housemaid called Edna which is another sign that they are well off.
The role of the inspector is the main focus point for the play because the character is so unusual. The inspector puts forward the sense of social responsibility when he says “we are all members of one body: we are responsible for each other” he uses the word ‘we’, meaning the whole society and trying to involve the audience a lot more. The role of the inspector uses collective language such as ‘we’ or ‘we’ll’ to try and involve both the surrounding roles and the audience to the conversation.
This differs from Mr. Birling because Mr. Birling says earlier on in the play, “but what so many of you don’t seem to understand now, when things are so much easier, is that a man has to make his own way – has to look after himself – and his family too, of course, when he has one – and so long as he does that he won’t come to much harm.” He also says that – that a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own – and”.
This shows the difference between the inspector and Mr. Birling in the way that Mr. Birling uses word that mean only a small group of people such as family and the Inspector talks really collectively saying that everyone is responsible for everyone. Also Mr. Birling only says that you need to care for your loved ones and nobody else and therefore the contrast between roles is very interesting and certainly very much defined.
The role of the inspector seems a bit strange and is the main focus point of the play. His name is Inspector Goole – a pun for Ghoul, which is someone who has a morbid interest in death. It also has many other meaning such as a grave robber, an evil demon, originally of Oriental legend, supposed to feed on human beings, and especially to rob graves, prey on corpses, etc or a person who revels in what is revolting. This is ironic because the reason why he is there is because of the death of a young girl, name Eva smith.
The Inspector’s physical description is “the Inspector need not be a big man, but he creates an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness.” This shows that even though the Inspector gives off a feeling of suffocation, he is also very overpowering and intimidating. “He is dressed in a plain suit of the period” this shows that he is not in the upper class society but is not well off. This keeps you guessing because he has come to inspect the Birling family because of a young girl’s death. Also the Birlings “all five are dressed in evening dress of the period, men in tails and white ties, not dinner jackets.”
This clearly defines the separation of the Inspector and the Birling family. The way the Inspector dresses indicated he is in touch with reality, and the Birling’s elaborate dress suggests that they are out of touch with reality; being too wrapped up in their own lives. There isn’t much information about the Inspector, which creates an eerie atmosphere about him. The audience would tend to trust the Inspector because there is nothing special or nothing to suggest that the Inspector is not a real Inspector. Priestly has created this character in a very clever way and in some opinions; the Inspector could be the Birling family’s conscience, reminding them that everybody in life should be treated as an equal and with respect, not taking into consideration their class.
The Inspector cannot be a ghost because Sheila says “How he looked, and what he made me feel. Fire, blood, anguish.” This shows that the Inspector has made impact in Sheila, and maybe shows that Sheila is beginning to recognise her actions towards others as bad, and that she shouldn’t treat others with so much disrespect. I am going to examine the Inspector as both a catalyst and as a dramatic device,