Priestley uses the inspector as his way of communicating with the audience and the Birlings. He is an interesting character because you don’t know much about him. He just ‘appears’ and then when he’s done questioning the Birlings he ‘disappears’. An inspector is always interesting in a whodunit play because they are always very clever in their ways of detecting things. They always keep their methods secret until the end when everything comes out. When it does it is ever so obvious you are amazed that you didn’t see it before! This makes the play dramatic because it builds up tension and creates an atmosphere.
The stage directions tell us that the inspector ‘need not be a big man’ this tells us that the inspector is a very powerful character, because he doesn’t need to use his height as his power. This would make the audience attentive because if the inspector wasn’t a tall man, then they would like to see how he controlled them. There is a lot of Mystery surrounding the inspector and it’s shown in the way he speaks. As he not a chatty person and doesn’t drift of the subject that he’s discussing. This makes it hard to learn much about his background.
The methods of the inspector made him a dramatically effective character because he is so secretive and doesn’t give anything away. When Gerald and Eric say; ‘any particular reason that I shouldn’t see this girls photograph, inspector?’ and the inspector replies ‘it’s the way I like to work.’ He wont be intimidated by other characters no matter where they are placed socially. This makes him seem in control and the most powerful character on stage.
He is a very strange character because he looks at the other characters before speaking to them, perhaps to study their manner in which they express their emotions to see the way that they react to what’s going on around them. This may be why he shocks the audience and characters with the news of Eva’s death and the gruesome way that she died. He is very focused on the job that he is doing. For example when he is trying to get a confession out of Mr. Birling, Mr. Birling kept straying off the subject and trying to distract the inspector, but the inspector wouldn’t be distracted.
Tension and excitement is created by the way the characters respond to the inspector. E.g. Mr. Birling is reluctant to say anything on the subject because he thinks that what he has done to Eva is completely irrelevant. He feels that he was right to sack her for asking for a pay rise then going on strike because she didn’t get it. He thinks that it was an example for the other employees, to show them what would happen if they attempted anything of the sought.
This creates Tension in the sense that Mr. Birling is afraid of giving anything away that might convict him of murder. He doesn’t want to be blamed for this because he’s a very important person in the community. He tries to cover this up by when the inspector says’ Do you remember Eva smith?’ Mr. Birling replies ‘no, I seem to recall having heard the name-Eva Smith- somewhere, but it doesn’t convey anything to me, And I don’t see where I come into all this’. Here Mr. Birling is denying anything he may have done. This is dramatically effective because as soon as he sees the photograph, his memory is jogged, but he is still very reluctant. This makes the audience respond because its very frustrating that Mr. Birling doesn’t want to admit to anything.
When the inspector questions Sheila we can tell that she has no idea what part she has to play until she sees the photograph and ‘comes clean’. She admits that she had Eva sacked from Milwards because in effect Eva was too pretty and She was in a ‘foul temper’ and had to take it out on someone. The drama in Sheila’s story is created by the way Sheila reacts to the inspector. ‘Did it make much difference to her?’ and when the inspector answers ‘yes’ then she feels very miserable and down heartened, like the whole weight of the word is on her shoulders.
She replies ‘so i’m really responsible?’ and although the inspector says ‘no not entirely’ she feels full of regret. It creates a very big mood change in the play, from celebratory to distress. This may help shape the audiences responses to the play and create excitement in the play because; as soon as Sheila has confessed then she tries to persuade the other characters to confess. ‘Why you fool he knows, of course he knows. And I hate to think how much he knows that we don’t know yet. You’ll see. You’ll see.’ By this she means that there’s no point in hiding anything because the inspector will get it out of him anyway.
When the inspector moves onto Gerald he creates more tension by calmly saying ‘-so first she changed her name to Daisy Renton’ Just by Gerald’s reaction (‘What!’) you could tell that he knows something, because he makes it so obvious that he’s hiding something. Its almost as if the inspector knew what Gerald would do, but just to let the audience and the other characters know he slipped in that her name then became Daisy Renton. Gerald, to calm himself pours another drink, but it doesn’t help because Sheila sees his reaction and immediately suspects something. This makes it dramatically effective because it is exciting and interesting to know what Gerald has done, whether it was for Eva /Daisys benefit or not. The part that makes it effective is that the way he ‘gave himself away, as soon as she mentions her other name’ Then Sheila’s makes him try and confess to all his sins.
The beginning of this act was particularly effective in the national theater production because the inspector came down through the audience and stood outside the Birling household. This was dramatically effective because it gave and atmosphere and made you think why is he there? What does he want? In this play you could hear the Birlings conversation but weren’t forced to listen to it. It was just a background noise. You mainly concentrated on the inspector and what he was doing, because he was interacting with the children that were running around on stage.