In this essay I will be exploring the above question and will also write about general points related to An Inspector Calls. It is a play revolving around a late night visit from a police Inspector in a large house in the industrial north in 1912. The Inspector interrupts a posh dinner party and is investigating an apparent suicide. An Inspector Calls was written in 1945 in a time when World War Two was finally finishing. Its first major performance was in London in 1946. The whole play takes place in the large dining room of a wealthy manufacturer.
The stage directions show that the dining room should look grand and expensive but not warm and cosy. This may be Priestly trying to send a message across that although being rich means big mansions and lots of goods it may not bring happiness and a friendly way of life. It is set in the fictional town of Brumley in the north midlands. The play is set in 1912, a few days before the Titanic sank and two years before World War One started. Priestly set the play in this particular period for a number of reasons.Order now
One of the reasons is that it makes Mr Birling seem even more ignorant in the audiences eyes as all of his predictions are wrong, “… he Titanic- she sails next week… unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable… ” and he also says that “there isn’t a chance of war”. Probably the most important reason why it’s set in 1912 is that it makes all the things the inspector says much more meaningful. Right before the Inspector leaves he says “We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. ” This is a socialist view of life and it is the message that Priestly wants to get across to the audience. It means that everyone’s actions affect everybody else and that everyone is connected.
The Inspector goes on to say that “… if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish” This can be interpreted as the Inspector predicting World War One; “fire, blood and anguish” can only really be referring to the war which started two years later. This would have strongly affected the audience in the 1940s because they had just gone through World War Two, Priestly is suggesting via the Inspector that society didn’t learn “the lesson”, promptly forgot it and had to be taught it again in World War Two.
The most significant character in the play is Inspector Goole. He comes across as a very cold, strange and un-human person. The name ‘Goole’ suggests that he is not meant to be a real person as Goole sounds like Ghoul which is a sort of ghost or spirit. However although the Inspector hardly has a human personality he manages to bring out the human consciences of some of the characters and also manages to expose the selfish, cruel personalities of others. He interrogates each character about their involvement of the suicide of Eva Smith.
He reveals characters such as Mr and Mrs Birling as cruel and heartless people but shows that characters like Sheila and Eric recognise their part in Eva Smith’s suicide and are sorry for it. One of the many interesting things about the play is how the characters change throughout and also how some of them don’t change. At the start of the play Sheila comes across as a rich, materialistic snob. When she puts on the engagement ring which Gerald gives her she says “Now I really feel engaged” which shows that she only feels engaged with an expensive ring and not when she’s in love.
However, when the Inspector comes you start to see a big change in Sheila; she is in genuinely sorry and acknowledges that she played a part in Eva Smith’s suicide. Mr Birling is probably the most detestable character in the whole play. He is an ignorant, selfish, egotistical snob. His outlook on life is that “a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own”. He doesn’t believe in community at all; “But the way some of these cranks talk and write now, you’d think everybody has to look after everyone else, as if we were all mixed up together like bees in a hive- community and all that nonsense.
Mr Birling thinks that he treated Eva Smith perfectly fairly in firing her just because she went on strike. He shows no remorse for her and is only scared about his reputation being damaged and the possibility of a knighthood being jeopardised. Mrs Birling is as unlikeable as Mr Birling, she is the sort of person who follows all of the pointless social rules; when Mr Birling comments that he enjoyed the meal Mrs Birling says “Arthur, you’re not supposed to say such things-“. She is also not at all concerned with Eva Smith’s suicide; “I don’t suppose for a moment that we can understand why the girl committed suicide.
Girls of that class… ” This shows that she could not care less for her and also that she looks down on people “of that class”. One of the numerous things that Priestly does to make the play much more exciting is that he makes sure the Inspector only interrogates one person at a time; this means that the audience will always be looking forward to the next person being interrogated because they will always want to know how the other people were involved in it and if they were connected with the death.
By the end of the play it leaves you asking more questions than when you started watching it. It is quite possible that Eva Smith is more than one person; as the Inspector only shows the picture of the girl to each person one at a time it could easily be a different person each time. The Inspector says that the girl changed her name quite a few times however this could quite easily just be covering up the fact that it’s a different person each time.
Priestly manages to get his socialist message across to the audience via the Inspector. He also portrays a rich and snobbish family and exposes the selfish and mean parts of them. The play is very engaging and it has a surprising ending. It will continue to entertain audiences and readers for years to come.