“An Inspector calls” was set in 1917, a time of contentment prior to World War 1. This smugness is reflected in the Birling family but is soon disturbed by the inspector. We realise this character is far more than an ordinary policeman from the very beginning. The audience recognises this because of his abrupt arrival, his name (Goole) and the way his behaviour changes the mood of the party. At the beginning of the play in the stage directions it says “the lighting should be pink and intimate until the Inspector arrives, and then it should be brighter and harder.
” This is changing the atmosphere. Priestley says that he has a “disconcerting habit” of looking at people, making it obvious that Priestley intended the inspector to be seen as sinister. The Birlings feel that they have only the need to bother with themselves and not care about anyone else this Priestley underlines with the “sharp” sound of a doorbell. At this point the family is having a party to celebrate the engagement of Gerald and Sheila. Birling sees this narrow minded, as a business arrangement.
The inspector has been given the job of objecting Birling’s philosophy. He goes about his questioning in a fairly menacing manner, although superficially he is always correct. A hint of this is when he is keeping the photograph away from Gerald and Eric and after being asked by Gerald if there was any reason he could not see the picture, he replies, “There might be. ” All the Inspector’s answers are said in a non-definite fashion. So no one actually knows where he or she stands with him.
Progressing later in the play we see he prefers to deal with one person at a time, although this may be plausible it doesn’t remove the unease his remark would have created. A normal inspector would interview the culprits alone, unlike our inspector who wants the others to see what they have done; if he is so concerned about “one line of inquiry at a time” wouldn’t he have done the interviews in the correct procedure? This is part of Goole’s technique; by stirring memories with photographs and questions he requires the group to acknowledge publicly “secrets.
” He intends to link the chain of events and show the incalculable consequences. Goole shows us his less polite side when he asks Birling “Why” he refused her request for a pay rise. This business doesn’t concern a police officer and Goole is not in the position to ask this. Relating to this shortly after the inspector then replies to Birling saying that the workers would soon be asking for the earth, with “It’s better to ask for the earth then take it” immediately offending Birling’s social opinions. Also the statement that it is his “duty to ask questions” shows a stubborn side to the inspector.
The Inspector is an arrogant man who feels that it is his “duty” to know things that are not his affair. His harshness is reflected in the inspector’s appearance. He should have an “impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness. ” Although seeming extremely official his obligation to ask continues too far into the private lives of the family. Inspector Goole says he “never take offence” in a calm way.
Priestly repeats “offence” for several more lines and this repetition makes the reader pay more attention to the word. Mrs Birling is absolutely correct that it is the Birling family rather than the inspector that should “take offence. ” An added point to see is that Mr. Birling, who we hear knows everyone in his town, does not recognise the inspector and assumes he is new and the inspector claims he doesn’t see much of the chief constable. We go by this until we later discover there is no police officer by the name of Goole.