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An Inspector Calls

Powerful Essays
An Inspector Calls

How does Priestley use the character of the Inspector to convey his own opinions and attitudes?

An Inspector Calls, set in 1912, is a play with many social and political messages. J. B. Priestley believed a great deal in socialism and believed that many other people needed to be more caring about their community and the people in it. Priestley uses the character of the Inspector to convey his own thoughts, feelings and opinions about social issues. However, he also uses other characters, particularly Mr.Birling, to show the audience how cynical some people can be.

It is possible that J.B.Priestley set this play in 1912 for a reason. Arthur Birling is a rich businessman who thinks very highly of himself, even though he is often wrong.

Arthur's family respect him and listen intently to his ideas that 'there isn't a chance of war' and the Titanic is 'unsinkable.' As the play was written in 1947 and set in 1912, this is an example of dramatic irony and the audience would know that Arthur was very wrong in his opinions and might even think him to be stupid. When he says 'the way some of these cranks talk and write now, you'd think everybody has to look after everybody else', he explicitly says that he is strongly Capitalist and is narrow minded. Priestley wanted the audience to have a low opinion of Birling because he was discouraging his Capitalist politics and trying to show people like Birling to be at fault When Mr.Birling makes his speech he makes several points which Priestley himself disagrees with, he uses the Inspector as a medium to make a point to both the Birling family and the audience that we shouldn’t all “Look out for our own” which is how Birling describes it. According to Mr.Birling every man should put himself first, even before his family. We know this when he says “A man should look out for himself, and his family if he has one”; this shows just how full of self-importance he actually is. The timing of the Inspector’s entrance is immediately after Birling has made this speech.

Throughout the play there are hints that the Inspector isn’t all he seems to be, is it possible that he’s actually just a fraud claiming to be an Inspector? The Inspector called himself 'Goole,' which could be a pun on the word 'ghoul' which is often referred to as some kind of ghostly being. Towards the end of this script it becomes appa...

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...police saying that 'A girl has just died.... after swallowing some disinfectant' and a real Inspector will question the family. This is an unexpected twist. The fake Inspector was there to punish them on a moral level and to try and make them feel guilty enough to change their behaviour. This was accomplished with Eric and Sheila, but not with the others. The only thing that they would be affected by was a 'public scandal,' and the real Inspector would ensure that that is what they would get. Without this twist, it would seem that the Birling parents and Gerald would escape unpunished. The Inspector's main purpose is to teach. In the context of the play, he told the characters what had happened to a particular girl because they had each been guilty of selfishness. In regards to the whole of society, he voiced Priestley's opinions that we cannot make any progress if we do not work together.

In my opinion, those watching or reading the play today would not gain as much from the story in regards to the moral teachings because most have now accepted the advantages of Socialism over Capitalism and so do not have as much to learn on the arguments of this issue as the audiences of 1947.
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