The task I have been set and the purpose of this essay is to consider the many ways in which J.B. Priestly uses the character of Inspector Goole as a dramatic device in the play An Inspector Calls. I aim to discuss, in this essay, the character’s reactions to the inspector and the type of relationships formed between them. I shall discuss the Inspector’s entrance and exit and also his final speech. I shall also talk about the many ways the inspector creates dramatic tension within the play. I shall also talk about the Inspector’s character and behaviour and the effect he has on the family. Finally I shall conclude by discussing the ways Priestly has written many of his own thoughts and views into the play, and evaluating the effectiveness of the Inspector as a dramatic device.
The entrance of the inspector is poignant because of the irony of the situation. Before the Inspector entered the room Mr. Birling had been talking about how it was important to look after only yourself. This is ironic considering what they are about to learn. Edna’s line, “Edna Please, sir, an inspector’s called.” is crucial to the play as it signifies the dramatic change that is about to affect all their lives. Upon entering the house the Inspector is very polite, compared to how he is later on in the play, refusing a drink and addressing people very formally as ‘sir’ or by their name almost every time he spoke. However it does not take long for certain members of the family to take a strong dislike to him.
The first person the Inspector encounters is Mr. Birling; this does not get off to a good start. Mr. Birling begins conversation with the inspector, by giving him a short briefing of his legal history. Listing off important position after important position. Making clear to the inspector that he has friends in high places. “Birling … I was an alderman for years – and Lord Mayor two years ago – and I’m still on the bench – so I know the Brumley police officers pretty well…”
This is typical behaviour of Mr. Birling, he sees himself as an important person who should be thought of highly in society. It is for this reason he is very shocked at the inspectors behaviour later on in the play. The Inspector’s response to this statement is merely a half hearted, ” Quite so.” Showing that he is not all that impressed. It is for this reason that Mr. Birling does not continue to treat the Inspector as politely as he has been. When speculating over what the Inspector wanted, earlier in the play Mr. Birling had come to the conclusion that it was something to do with a warrant. However when Mr. Birling confronted the Inspector he did not get the reply he was hoping for.
“Birling … Some trouble about a warrant? Inspector No, Mr. Birling. Birling (after a pause, with a touch of impatience) Well, what is it then?” Here we see Birling getting rather agitated and annoyed at the Inspector because the Inspector is not telling Mr. Birling any information. This is one of the tactics the inspector uses to reveal the story lines in the play; instead of revealing everything himself he makes the characters work for it. He will hint at a storyline but it will be the characters themselves who reveal a story.
“Birling … They wanted the rates raised so that they could average about twenty-five shillings a week. I refused of course. Inspector Why? Birling (surprised) Did you say ‘Why?’? ” This shows Mr. Birling thinks that making money is more important than the girls’ welfare. The inspector is playing ignorant here on purpose to drag out as much information from Mr. Birling as possible from them. The inspector acts as the audience here voicing a question that the audience themselves may possibly be asking. Also this way the audience is more informed into the thoughts of the character of Mr. Birling.