I shall explain the dramatic influence and importance of the role that is played by the inspector in the original J.B Priestley’s ‘An Inspector Calls’ how he is made to be perceived and the way he is used to put the message across. It is a very purposeful play, has a strong meaning and acts as a warning regarding the state of British civilisation, classes and social problems. It is set in early, post war Britain but was written in the 1945, the whole play is located in the upper class family household of the Birlings where an engagement party was taking place between Sheila Birling and Gerald Croft.
This engagement though has more than one purpose as Arthur Birling (Sheila’s father) could also gain power and business advantages from this alliance because the Croft family is more powerful and also has good connections in the social order. Act One In the first few pages Arthur makes several ironic speeches like ‘the Germans don’t want war’, the Titanic is ‘unsinkable. Absolutely unsinkable’ and that as long as there is no scandal or controversy in the family that he shall soon be knighted. He also states that ‘a man has to make his own’ way shortly before the inspector Goole comes knocking on their door.
Edna the maid introduces him to the family an his presence automatically disrupts the celebration and causes an immediate impression, J.B Priestley makes sure of the type of character he wants to play the role of the inspector, some who: ‘creates impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness’. His first six sentences are quite short and abrupt until Arthur enquires about the meaning of his visit. he tells them of the tragic death of the young woman he is there to investigate and gets an immediate reaction from Eric Birling (Arthur’s son), meaning possibly that he has a guilty conscience and then is told that it was it was suicide. The inspector is very precise often interrupting people in mid sentence and has a habit of staring hard at them.
He shows Arthur a picture of Eva Smith and carefully avoids showing it to anyone else. This frustrates Eric and Gerald as they do not understand why they cannot see the girl. He explains why, ‘one line of inquiry at a time’ but later the real truth is discovered in his methods. Finally this jogs Arthur’s memory of Eva Smith and he admits to discharging her from the family business for financial reasons, (wanting a raise) and because she rebelled. This shows the money divide of the two classes, the Birlings and such like getting frivolous lives and the Eva Smiths paid almost too little to live on. The inspector expresses his opinion on this and trying to show how greedy and very unfair this is.
As the inspector explains, this started her bad luck Arthur takes no responsibility ‘nothing whatever to do with the wretched girl’s suicide’ as it was two years ago. Arthur now believes, or at least hopes that the inquiry is now over and the inspector has all the information that he came for. He gets quite cross with the questions and when he stays, Arthur loses his temper. Gerald sticks up for him but the inspector has already begun a divide between Arthur and his son Eric. Sheila enters the room, is told the story and takes Eric’s opinion that it’s a terrible shame that she took her life and that she is an actual human being with real thoughts and feelings ‘I think it was a mean thing to do’.
Slowly and sneakily though she is dragged into the situation by the visitor, explaining where Eva had worked, getting a reaction from Sheila ‘Milwards! We go their’ as she is a customer there (Milwards). He describes what had happened, which automatically reveals a nervousness inside Sheila when she begins to ask more questions. Like the last time he calmly shows only her a picture of the girl and this upsets Sheila, who runs off and in the stage instructions it tells us that the inspector stares hard after her-this to send a sense of fright or suspicion into the audience.
The inspector cleverly presents himself as not being totally knowledgeable of the whole Eva Smith story. He also stirs up the family as much as possible often referring to the poor, dead girl ‘It’s too late. She’s dead’ this would help to get the audience on his side as J.B Priestley would want. The inspector is still very protective of the photographs. He becomes quite heavy handed and tells them how he shall not treat them differently just because of their class. The family is not used to this. Sheila comes back in hoping that what she had done has not resulted in any great harm to Eva but is told that it did, then reassuming that the girl’s death is now all her fault but again set straight by the inspector, telling her that she was only partly to blame.
It is then explained to the audience and rest of family what happened, and this shows the power the higher classes have against the lower classes, and how that a small thing to one person can greatly effect another. The inspector tries to make them feel as guilty as possible. He then tells them that after this she changed her name to Daisy Renton getting a surprised reaction from Gerald. Sheila and Gerald then have a dialogue about Daisy Renton explaining to the audience briefly of his involvement before another confrontation.