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    An inspector calls written by J. B. Priestley: Who is the inspector? Essay

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    The play “An inspector calls” written by J B Priestley. Inspector Goole is a very mystifying and baffling main character in the play. Who is he and what does he epitomize: is he Eva smith, the voice of the author, the character conscience, god, some one that can foretell the future or is he a ghost. The theme of this short play is that we all have responsibility for ourselves and also for others but also that within society there should be equality.

    We are immediately drawn to the names Eva Smith and Inspector Goole. Let’s firstly take: the name Goole, it suggests that the inspector is ghost like, and goes about inspecting the other characters in very peculiar and curious manner. Eva is very similar to Eve for she was the first woman; Smith is a very common surname.

    Together the names represent the typical working clad as the inspector says “But just remember this, one Eva smith has gone – but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smith and John Smiths still left with us” Priestley is showing the Birling’s just how there decisions affect other people’s lives, sometimes for the worst sometimes for the good and that as an employer they have responsibility for society. The play is set in 1912 and has a fundamental moral about socialism.

    This is definitely because J B Priestley was a great socialist; responsibility is often mentioned in the play and a lot of Priestley’s views are aired. Birling’s remarks such as “The Titanic – she sails next week forty thousand six hundred tons – forty thousand six hundred tons – New York in 5 days and every luxury- and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable” Making himself sound so perceptive when to the audience he is such a fool; as the titanic sunk. Priestley depicts Mr Birling in this way because he is such a capitalist and believes in completely the opposite to Priestley.

    So Priestly had inserted the Inspector in the play to educate the Birling’s and Gerald about values of society especially Eric and Shelia whose generation in a few years time will run the businesses of the country, pay the wages, make the laws and making progress in technology and knowledge. Could it be Shelia’s conscience that is the inspector? For Shelia is very egocentric in the way that she thinks and is often self obsessed. Her behaviour definitely tells you she is insecure and prown to go into strops. Alas her moods can cause others lives to be turned upside down.

    As was the case when she met Eva Smith. It was around February and Eva was working in a clothes shop called Milwards, she was assisting another member of staff with a dress for a customer; that customer being Shelia. Shelia was in one her moods this was not helped when the other member of staff asked Eva to show the dress to Shelia. She was immediately struck with jealousy and envy for Eva’s looks as Shelia told the inspector in a rather embarrassed and ashamed tone “And it just suited her. She was the right type for it and I was the wrong type”

    This is demonstrating to us how jealous Shelia was of Eva. It displays to the audience Shelia’s unconfident and insecure personality. Shelia knows she’s like this and maybe that’s why and invented the inspector to save herself from becoming arrogant, self – important and judgmental like her parents. The audience can see this coming through in the play especially when she makes statements like “But these girls aren’t cheap labour – there people” This is showing that she is beginning to develop different views to her parents.

    Her views are modern to her time she is almost thinking to the future. Priestley is making a point that young people are the future. Moving on to act two could the inspector be a feminist. Gerald Croft has had an affair with Eva Smith and just treated her like an object not a real person. In fact he does that with most women he comes into contact with. At the beginning of act 2 when the inspector begins to inspect Gerald the inspector says “And you think young women ought to be protected against unpleasant and disturbing things? ”

    This is questioning Gerald and almost asking him if he thinks women are brainless, uneducated, delicate and too fragile to understand such matters as murders and affaires. However the inspector stands up for Shelia when Gerald agrees with the inspectors question by saying “I can tell you why Miss Birling wants to stay on and why she says it might be better for her. ” This clearly demonstrates that the inspector is a feminist. Then Gerald lets the entire story spill out about how he got lodgings for her, spent evenings with her and in general just used her. J.

    B Priestley is showing that women should be treated equally. Subsequent to questioning Gerald the inspector moves onto Mrs Birling. After finishing with Gerald, Eva went away for a few months and as she writes in her diary “… Just to make it last longer. ” Before continuing with the rest of her life. Shortly after returning to Brumley she went to the “Brumley Women’s Charity Organisation” for money and help. Here Mrs Birling tries to build a wall between her and Eva Smith.

    When the inspector asks “There was a meeting of the interviewing committee two weeks ago? Her reply is to say “I dare say there was” When in actual fact she was in the chair of the committee. So she knows full well that there was a meeting. In fact she remembers her full well as Eva called herself ‘Mrs Birling’ and this prejudiced Mrs Birling against her case as she states “…… a piece of gross impertinence- quite deliberate – and naturally that was one of the things that prejudiced me against her case. ” This is showing a different side to Mrs Birling: spiteful and malicious.

    She is ‘showing her true colours’ how she looks down on the working class and how supercilious she is. J. B Priestley is portraying her rather similarly to Mr Birling: – egotistical and patronising. Mrs Birling and Eric are judged severely by the Inspector and made to look immoral to the audience. ‘Grimly’ “Don’t worry Mrs Birling I shall do my duty. ” ‘He looks at his watch’ The Inspector is threatening to punish Eric for his actions. He then continues to Mrs Birling agreeing with her how the man that got Eva pregnant should be made an example of “No hushing eh?

    Make an example of the young man, eh? Public confession of responsibility – um? ” Mrs Birling agrees getting ready to say good night to the inspector “……… now no doubt you’d like to say good night” The inspector waits to do his “duty”. Eric returns admitting he was the one that got Eva Smith pregnant. Alas the inspector says “This girl killed herself – and she died a horrible death. But each of you helped kill her. Remember that. Never forget it. He looks from one to the other of them carefully. But then I don’t think you ever will.

    Remember what you did, Mrs Birling. You turned her away when she most needed help. You refused her even the pitiable little bit of organised charity you had in your power to grant her. Remember what you did –” This is the inspector making an example of all of the characters particularly Mrs Birling. Demonstrating to her how her arrogance has helped led to the death of Eva Smith. The inspector goes on “She wanted 25 shillings a week instead of twenty two and sixpence. You made her pay a heavy price for that…… And now she’ll make you pay a heavier price still. This is explaining to Mr Birling that he started it and now he will never forget how he acted as the catalyst for the beginning of the end.

    The inspector continues now with Eric “You treated her like an animal, a thing, not a person” He used her as an object and treated her inadequately. Shelia is not judged as she judges herself “I turned her out of a job. ” Sadly Mr Croft is not there so he can not be judged so the audience can only be left to wonder how the inspector would have judged him. The inspector’s job is done he’s made the characters feel ashamed and humiliated.

    He leaves his exit being rather dramatic, “He walks straight out, leaving them staring subdued and wondering. ” Leaving the characters and the audience to access themselves a question each other and wonder. Could the inspector be a prophet from the future a god like figure? Gerald returns from his breather, with very important news:- “That man wasn’t a police officer” This changes the story, was any of it true as Gerald says “We no proof it was the same photograph and therefore no proof it was the same girl. Almost suggesting that the inspector had woven the whole story together rather like a ‘patch work quilt’.

    The Mr and Mrs Birling pus Gerald almost begin to celebrate, congratulating themselves. The younger generation: Eric and Shelia are distressed as Eric says “He was our police inspector all right” This is really summing up that within society we all have responsibility whether we want it or not and that the inspector has shown the characters hidden colours. Eric persists to make statements much to his father’s annoyance “……. the fact remains that I did what I did.

    And mother did what she did. And the rest of you did what you did to her” He is only pointing out the truth, but this is not downing Mr and Mrs Birling’s plus Gerald’s spirits. “The telephone rings sharply. There is a moment’s complete silence. Birling goes to answer it. Yes?. . . . . Mr Birling speaking . . . . . What? – here- But obviously the other person has rung off. ” “That was the police. A girl has just died – on her way to the Infirmary – after swallowing some disinfectant. And a police inspector is on his way here – to ask some – questions” That was the same way that Eva died.

    Was the inspector predicting the future and attempting to save the characters from themselves. To get them to know themselves better, and realise that there decisions affect others. So although it is difficult to know who or what the inspector is, we now know that he is an important social figure in the play, and his views on life are important even in today’s society. I think this play was written to remind us that we all have responsibility and that we are all equal and what one person does affects what happens around them.

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