In “An Inspector Calls” by J. B. Priestley the Inspector is used as a voice of conscience and morality. The Inspector does this while interrogating a very prosperous and upper-middle class family who believe themselves to be above all. The dramatic impact that Priestley uses shows the importance, validity and presence of the inspector. Priestley uses effects such as changing the lighting “The lighting should be pink and intimate until the inspector arrives, and then it should be brighter and harder” in the stage directions.
This is to show the change of tone when the inspector arrives, from joyous and loving to earnest and grave. This lighting change also symbolises truth and ‘the harsh light of reality’. His body language is very confronting and serious. “Has a disconcerting habit of looking at the person he addresses before actually speaking” This shows the Birlings that he is not playing games and is making sure they know why he is there. The inspector is omniscient; he knows everything, although he is still questioning them.
He keeps control of the situation so he can keep track of what’s going on and what’s being said: “One line of enquiry at a time”. This shows that he is in control and Eric and Gerald’s reaction show they are not used to being controlled. The inspector treats the Birling family with a slight disrespect, unlike what was expected of him at the time the play was set. He treats the Birling family with assertiveness. He questions most of their actions against their wishes, such as “Birling: I refused, of course. Inspector: Why? ” He threatens Mr Birling’s dominance and complacency.
He also challenges his political views and ideology. This shows that The Inspector has no respect towards Mr. Birling. At the beginning of the play, Sheila is very innocent. She is the little girl of her family and she is sheltered by her parents. The Inspector knows how to manipulate her. The Inspector unsettles Sheila through his use of powerful, emotive language. The Inspector challenges her morality, making her feel “terribly guilty”, knowing that she could have more influence over her father than he ever could. At the end of the play, Sheila has gone from nai??
ve and innocent to more mature and more established. The Inspector also exposes Gerald’s cheating and lies. This could be a comment on J. B. Priestley’s views of marriage. It shows that people should be judged on their morals and principles and ethics rather than their social status. In general, The Inspector exposes the blemishes in the Birling’s lives. The Inspector is successful in what he does. The Birling’s can therefore be shown to represent the upper/higher classes and their imperfections and flaws are being drawn out and exposed.
Priestley is showing that upper class life is not picture perfect and no one is entirely innocent, even if not directly guilty. The Inspector treats each member of the Birling family differently. To Mr. Birling, he is assertive and sometimes rude “Birling: Well, Inspector, I don’t see that it’s any concern of yours how I choose to run my business. Is it now? Inspector: It might be, you know. ” It is this rudeness and discourtesy that would have astonished a contemporary audience, thus making The Inspector a very powerful tool.