The play ‘An Inspector Calls’ was set in 1912 in an industrial city in the North Midlands. In the play Arthur Birling, a prosperous manufacturer, is holding a dinner party to celebrate the engagement of his daughter Sheila to Gerald Croft. Arthur Birling is naive about things like war and he doesn’t believe in community and is very selfish. He only cares about himself and his family, and seems to think that he can abuse people who are of a lower class than himself. The party is interrupted when a police inspector, Inspector Goole, turns up to question members of the family about the suicide of a young working class woman.Order now
The inspector interrogates them all and, and every member of the family turns out to have done something terrible to the woman. He tells the family she had a few identities. The inspector says that the woman died by drinking a lot of strong disinfectant. He claims that Arthur Birling upset her when a girl called Eva Smith worked for him and asked for more money, she was refused it she went on strike and he ended up firing her. He protests and says that he was paying her good money and her suicide couldn’t possibly be his fault as it happened almost two years ago.
The function of the inspector at this point of the play is to try and make Mr Birling feel guilty about his decision to fire the girl. Birling did not feel any remorse as he is a heartless man. He didn’t care about the girl as he didn’t know her; he seems to only care about people close to him and not about people around him who get hurt by his decisions and things he does. Next the inspector talks to Sheila Birling. He says the young girl got a job in a shop called Milwards. She got fired because a customer complained about her.
The inspector shows Sheila the photograph and she recognizes the person and starts crying and she runs out of the room. Sheila admits that it was her who complained about the woman and lost her the job. She said the girl upset her because she had been trying on a dress and everyone had said it wouldn’t suit her and when she had the dress on the girl smiled at the other assistant as if to say ‘Doesn’t she look awful? ‘. And then she held up the dress to her and Sheila knew the girl would look better in the dress than she did.
The role of the inspector at this point of the play is to make Sheila feel wrong about complaining about the girl and losing her job. She complained for a selfish superficial reason. Sheila could not handle that the girl was more attractive than her and she was paranoid that she was talking about her appearance to another assistant in the shop. The inspector tells the members of the family that the woman next changed her name to Daisy Renton. Gerald Croft obviously recognises the name but tries to deny it.
This is because he had been having a relationship with the girl behind Sheila’s back. He had met the girl, who had then changed her name to Daisy Renton, in the bar of the Palace Music Hall in Brumley. He saw the girl wedged into a corner by a ‘half-drunk and goggle-eyed’ Joe Meggarty. He saw the girl looked uneasy so he made excuses to get rid of Joe Meggarty, and he took the woman to the County Hotel for a quiet drink. They talked and Gerald found out that the girl was penniless and that she was about to be turned out of the miserable back room she was living in.
He took pity on her and gave her some money and let her stay in some rooms that Gerald was looking after for his friend, Charlie Brumswick, who had gone off to Canada. Daisy Renton was very grateful for the help Gerald gave her and the two started to make love on occasions, and Gerald made excuses to Sheila that he had been very busy at the works at that time. At this point of the play the inspector reveals a big secret. He lets out that Gerald was unfaithful to Sheila. He gets Gerald to reveal more as he feels he needs to justify everything and explain to Sheila.
He is very manipulative and uses what little knowledge he has about the affair to try and make Gerald think he knows every detail, so he feels that there is no point in denying things as he is under the impression the inspector knows everything any way. He also needs to clear his conscience with his bride to be, Sheila. The inspector then shows Mrs Birling the photograph. She denies that she has seen the woman before in her life but then admits that two weeks previously at the Brumley Women’s Charity Organization in which she is a prominent member of.
The woman had appealed to the organization for help under the name Mrs Birling, which had offended Mrs Birling greatly. Mrs Birling refused the girl help. The girl wanted help because she was pregnant and Mrs Birling told her to look for the father of the child as it was his responsibility. The woman had told Mrs Birling that the father of the child was just a young boy who liked to get drunk, she said he had offered her money but she had refused as she had suspicions that it was stolen.
She argues that the father of the child should be the one being questioned and he should be punished for getting the young girl into trouble. The inspector makes Mrs Birling reveal her opinion on the situation to the whole family, making sure everyone knew that she was against the father of the child. He knew what was going to be revealed next, which would make her look foolish, and against her own child. They then find out that the father of the child is Eric, Mr and Mrs Birling’s son. He enters the room and confesses and tells the Inspector how he met the girl.
He had met the girl the previous November at the Palace bar where they had both been drinking and were quite ‘squiffy’. Eric went back to her room and the two made love. He met her again another day and they made love again. The woman then told him she was pregnant. Eric tried to help her out by giving him money that he had stolen from his father’s office. The inspector makes Eric reveal to his father he stole from him and to his mother’s distress that he fathered a child of a woman who she had talked to at her organization.
The inspector makes Eric feel bad as while he is admitting his shameful secrets, he is aware that his own mother is has made it blatantly clear that she was against the father of the child right from the start, and he knows how disappointed and shocked the whole family are with him. The whole family seem to be against each other and all their views on the suicide of the girl conflict. They have not just each done something terrible to a girl; many of them have betrayed their family and loved ones. When the Inspector leaves the members of the family start to wonder if the Inspector actually was who he said he was.
Gerald returns from his walk he had taken to clear his head and starts to express his doubts to the family about the Inspector. He feels that the Inspector’s manner was not like he had ever witnessed before and Mrs Birling agreed that she thought the way he had spoken to the members of the family was rude and not the usual behaviour of an Inspector. Gerald decides to call the police station to ask if there is an Inspector Goole and he finds that there in fact isn’t. Mr and Mrs Birling and Gerald start to relax about what they have learnt in that night but Eric and Sheila are still upset about what they have been told.
They feel that even though the Inspector was not who he said he was they should all still feel guilty as what they have done is bad. Gerald starts to think about the happenings of the night and he thinks that the Inspector had tricked them all to admitting their secrets and that he could have shown each of them different pictures and the girl’s different identities could in fact be different people altogether. They start to calm down about the night as they have no proof that there was a suicide. They call the Infirmary to check if any young girls had recently committed suicide and they learn that there had not been one in a while.
The family start to feel at ease although Eric and Sheila still feel terrible about mistreating the girl, whoever she may be. The phone then rings and it is the police informing the Birlings that a young girl had committed suicide by drinking a strong disinfectant. The guilt then comes back to all the members of the family and there the play ends. The function of the Inspector in the play is someone who manipulates the family members into admitting revealing secrets such as infidelity, theft and the extent of their selfishness and greed.
He is a strong character who is not afraid to be rude to get the truth out of the family. He is very clever as he uses his knowledge of the family to get them to admit more so he can obtain more information about their lives. In the beginning Mr Birling says how much family means to him, and how he does not believe in community. Later in the play the inspector manages to make Birling to begin to realise that he should have respect for people in the community and that what is happening in his family may not how it seems.
He had been seeing everything through rose tinted glasses and putting his family up on a pedestal. He had not been recognising things that had been going on under his nose. He may say that he cares deeply about his family, but not enough to know them. If cared as much as he said he would have talked to them or at least noticed changes and things happening. The inspector tries to show the Birling family the meaning of family and community and to make a balance, and make more of an effort with everyone who he meets in life.