Role of the Inspector in Priestley's An Inspector Calls Essay

Role of the Inspector in Priestley's An Inspector Calls Essay

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Examine the role of Inspector Goole in the play “An Inspector Calls” by J.B. Priestley.

“An inspector calls” by J.B. Priestley is a fairly unusual Murder-Mystery play as it does not have a single murderer, but a group that contributed to a young woman’s suicide. This peculiarity also continues in that all of those accused are totally unaware of their involvement until they are forced to work it out for themselves, with a little help from the Inspector.
Inspector Goole, in the play “An Inspector Calls”, plays a very important role in the message the play gives. Set in 1912, a time of great confidence in the future of the country, but written in 1945, the play shows Priestley’s views of the world in 1945, but projects them, via the Inspector, onto the Birlings. A family who are very much set in their upper class, capitalist views.
Birling’s views are that of many a “hard-headed businessman” of the time, with them predicting only success and happiness with no war on the horizon, which clearly, given the events of the next six years, is a misguided view. Birling even says that the possibility of war is “Silly little war scares”, along with talking about the Titanic being about to sail and that it is “unsinkable”, with these little statements being rather comedic for the audience, as the apparent stupidity of Birling is unbelievable for the audience who know of the future events.
This idiocy from Birling means that from the arrival of the inspector, the audience of the play begin to like Goole more, as he gives a 1945 view of the time, almost as if he is predicting the future, giving him an air of intelligence, formidability and also common ground with the audience as many would share his ideas. In fact, it is very li...


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... how he appears rather imposing shows again how Priestley pushes his views through the character of the inspector onto the Inspector. This defiance of the social system is again proved by his unfailing ability to dodge questions with answers like “quite so” and “We’ll see”. This further makes the character more mysterious and creates a greater sense of control.
The later turn of events, after the inspector has left, with the discovery that he is not really a police inspector and the following phone call with the report of the suicide of a young woman shows sums up the Inspector’s role in that he has shown the failings of the class system and that he knows future events, which gives him a role similar to that to the ghosts in the Charles Dickens story, “A Christmas Carol” which again shows the fallibility of the class system and the incorrect view of future events.

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