The Role Of The Inspector In An Inspector Calls

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What is the role and function of the Inspector in An Inspector Calls? An Inspector Calls is a play with lots of political messages as well as social messages. J. B. Priestley believed in socialism and he used large amounts of his plays to try and convince people to his way of thinking. It was written in a time when Britain was ruled by a Labour government and socialist policies were seen to be a good way to go. It was a common way of thinking at that time so Priestley's aim for the play was to influence the unconvinced in society. The Inspector, straight form his introduction, is commanding and authoritative. Upon his entrance he creates, “…at once an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness.”(PG.11) The Inspector continues to create this impression as he progresses through his speeches and through his interrogation of the family. The Inspector remains confident, sturdy and composed, while people around him crumble and fall to pieces. His ‘solidity’ is proven by the fact he remains on task despite numerous attempts from Birling to digress from the points he is making. The Inspector is told to appear ‘purposeful’; this is shown where he explains to Birling that Birlings way of thinking “Every man must only look out for himself,” is not the case, and all warps of society are interlinked. The view is best illustrated in the Inspectors final speech, where he says, “We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other.”(p.56). This idea is one that Priestley, himself believed in deeply, and many of Priestleys writing shared this very theme. The history of the time the play was written helps us to understand the views and the feelings expressed by Priestley in the play. The inspector transfers Priestley’s views and he shows the difference in social classes at the time. A gap which he wants to diminish. He illustrates the reason for this in the play, via the inspector, where he outlines the ways each of the Birlings have influenced someone from a completely different background and social class. This is the way Priestley viewed pre-war England. Continuing from The Inspector showing Birling the error of his ways, The Inspector is the one and only person who makes things happen and keeps his and the overall story moving. Without the Inspector it is virtually assured that none of the secrets that were exposed would ever have come to light without the gentle nudges from the Inspector which knotted the storyline together.

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