Examine the role of the Inspector Goole in “An Inspector Calls” and comment on what Priestly reveals about his own society. J.P Priestley “An Inspector Calls” was written in 1945 but however he decided to set it in late 1912. He deliberately set this play in 1912 because the date represented an era when all was very different form the time he was writing. In 1912, rigid class and gender boundaries seemed to ensure that nothing would change. Yet by 1945 most of those class and gender divisions had been breached. Writing this play during this later stage provided the audience with the power of hindsight and allowed them to wonder about the idea of how people reacted to the sense of war and other relations.
During the action of this play a number of victims are interrogated but mainly I shall talk about the interrogator “Inspector Goole.” As doing so I shall explore the role played by the Inspector as a number of mysteries are ravelled about him. I will also comment on what Priestley reveals about his own society through his creation of the inspector. The opening stage directions indicate to us how Priestley determines the way he wishes the play to be presented. Before we are introduced to any of the main characters Priestley describes how he wants the lighting to be displayed.
“The lighting should be pink and intimate:” this helps to reinforce the initially rose-tinted mood. He is highlighting how well off this family are, in excitement and happiness for each other. He speaks about how the dinning table is created, placing on it champagne glasses, cigar box and cigarettes, but later as we know their whole plan of a celebration is about to be destroyed. As Mr Birling talks about “you’d think everybody has to look after everybody else, as if we were al mixed up, together like bees in a hive,” and interrupting his speech, the door bell rang.
At this point we have an idea that the inspector was over listening, knowing how wrong Birling is and decides to take his course. Again as we have an idea that the inspector arrives Priestley creates “a brighter and much harder light.” From this point on we know that this man is going to have a huge impact upon the rest of the characters and is about to change their way of living, well at least for some of them.
Before the inspector arrives Mr Birling stands up to his family and maybe his future son-in-law and gives a speech in so much confidence and belief in himself about how there’s no chance of war and other events, “I say there isn’t a chance of war.” Throughout Priestley uses a technique of Dramatic Irony, which puts the audience in a situation where they know, more than the characters onstage do. An example that Birling does not believe that a war will take place is “You’ll be living in a world that will have forgotten all these capital versus labour agitations and all these silly little war scares.” But what he doesn’t know is that the characters he is talking to may shall be in the middle of the Second World War and the audience are very aware of the severity of this.
Priestly continuously allows Birling to lead himself on up the garden path in his historical predictions and which shows him to be wrong about him whole outlook on the world. Birling continues elevating his own status by talking about how to bring their two families together. Again with the use of Dramatic Irony he puts himself in a situation where we find out who his real character is and see the arrogance in his words. It’s rather important that the inspector arrived when he did because Birling had the ability to go on and the audience with the power of hindsight know that no right will come from this man. As if it was the inspector listening in on the whole conversation and he abruptly interrupts and now knows that it is about time to take charge and correct his errors.
Seconds before the inspector’s arrival we have Birling give one of the most important speeches of the play. Now Birling talks about “look after himself and his own.” We now know exactly the character we are being introduced to. “You’d think everybody has to look after everybody else, as if we were all mixed up together like bees in a hive – community and all that nonsense.” Again we have another vision of this characters personality and shows that he fails to realise his social and collective responsibility and he doesn’t realise how much of an impact that he has on others.
Another technique Priestley uses is that he is highlighting Birlings self obsessed attitude and only wants himself to look after. Priestley waits until now to introduce the inspector because now Mr Birling has revealed himself and has widely expressed his opinions and now is the time of the arrival, the time for the breaking of this man. The inspector is about to interrupt their little celebration, their past memories and reveal their true identity to each other. At this stage the inspector is about to be introduced to us. Birlings speech is rudely interrupted as if it wasn’t accidental. As the inspector is about to enter Birling says, “Give us some more light.” This explains that he wishes to shed light on what is about to happen but what he doesn’t know is things are about to become harsher just like the light itself.