The Dramatic Effect of the Inspector
- Pages: 7
- Word count: 1724
- Category: Drama
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Inspector Goole. A character that can be expressed in many ways. Critics over the past decades continue to declare him as J. B. Priestly’s finest creation. Those who have heard of the play, ‘An Inspector Calls’ will instantly recognise it for its chief character and his astounding abilities. As a central character in the play, Goole is excellent at holding his presence in any scene. The audience is initially introduced to the inspector at a time where everything seemed serene. A rich family, the Birlings are having a relaxed night in with a daughter’s boyfriend.
The scene is warm with the drinking of alcoholic substances and lowered lighting. The hazy atmosphere could suggest that there is something hiding in this family waiting to be unveiled. Everything seems smug as the informal party continues. It seems though that something strange is to happen to this family, they speak of events that have had negative outcomes such as the Titanic and it’s sinking as though they will prosper to be great actions that will be remembered in the future.
Some may assume that the same may happen to the family, who currently acting ignorant to the world outside them may come to their own demise. It is only when the doorbell rings that something clearly seems unordinary. Who would be intruding such a meeting at such a time and what was their business? As the ringing is so spontaneous the audience immediately divert their full attention to the play. Those acting in the play enhance this mystery and eeriness through their body language as quoted in the stage directions ‘Sharp ring of a front door bell.
Birling stops to listen. ‘ Clearly Mr Birling was not anticipating a guest. This is further exemplified when Mr Birling answers ‘An Inspector? What kind of inspector? ‘ to the maid’s declaration that an inspector had called. This creates a stir in the audience. Something unprepared for, strange and unordinary is about to take place in this household, and the result already seems negative for the Birlings from their bewildered reactions. This sense among those viewing the play can only be fortified by the vivid change in lighting.
Before the inspectors entrance the lighting was soft; however, as soon as he steps inside the quarters of the Birlings, the lights become bright if not harsh. In some ways, they represent conditions similar to those of an interrogation room in a police building. Shadows are eradicated signifying that nothing can hide in the gloom from the inspector. The sudden contrast between the two environments leaves the audience eager to see more. The inspector’s appearance also has a major influence upon the audience.
His stern face (as shown in several cinematic recreations and plays as only wide jawed and ‘chisel cut’ faces are used) intimidates and creates a sense of mystery as to how this man can appear so rigid in the warm environment surrounding him that is the Birlings household. Goole is dressed formally, not surprising for a police inspector, nevertheless promoting the idea that he was at the Birlings for business, not pleasure; shortly proved deeper into the play when the inspector begins to question the family. The inspector does not at any point use a lighter tone of voice or sound informal/relaxed when speaking to the Birlings.
The inspector shows very little regard for the Birling family considering that the family is of an exceedingly high status. This is proven when at the beginning of the play, Gerald and his father in law to be are discussing the prospect of their two companies merging in order to produce a stronger company overall. Relying on status quo, only Chairman’s and C. E. O. ‘s even approach such talk in this day and age, it only seems likely that Mr Birling and Gerald were both of a high role in the society around them for a factory owner would accommodate many jobs for the population during that era of British history.
Simply because of the fact that many people had little education and so were left to work in factories in order to earn some form of money for their families. One can see that there was a large population of people in poverty against those who were rich. This is based on evidence that shows us that a lot of people were underweight and those who were derived from poor areas. The inspectors control over the family and its behaviour is quite incredible assuming he is of a lower class and hence, has less authority over the family according to stature and hierarchy.
One cannot proceed in doing something without going unnoticed in the inspector’s presence. He can see every move, which intimidates and causes people to not do anything altogether. This further substantiates the inspector as a dramatic device for he grips the audience and casts a powerful image of himself in their minds. The inspector is such an incredible character because he sustains his authority throughout the play, from beginning to end. An example of where the inspector does this: ‘(As birlingtries to protest, turns on him) don’t stammer and yammer at me again, man.
The way the inspector launches himself at onto the family especially during the scene described in the above quotation shows how much the man disregards the family’s position. One can see the extreme control the inspector has over his ‘prey’. The way he has frightened the family intrigues the audience further, who want to see, suggestedly, how far this man is prepared to go. Sheila Birling, daughter of Mr Birling, demonstrates the use of fear and co-operation through it most by following the inspector’s requests if not demands and encouraging others to do the same.
This is clearly shown when Mrs Birling is speaking of the punishments that should be granted to the person who impregnated the victim in the play, Eva Smith. Whilst Mrs Birling continues to talk unaware of the possible consequences Sheila tries to protest, in fear of what the inspector may do next. ‘No mother – stop! ‘ is repeated several times to no effect. The inspector undoubtedly uses Mrs Birling’s words against her and leaves her shaken and lost for words. He does the same to all the characters in the play. There is also a sense of mystery shrouding the inspector.
Some could say he is a very ‘fishy’ character. For example, his name is very strange. Very few people carry the name Goole, which makes the man seem rare and unusual. This itself springs up a pool of though over whether this man is someone local or from a different region if not realm. Mystery is also expressed in the inspector’s entrance and self introduction. It is brief and not a single attendant at the family party recognises him as Mr Birling clearly expresses when he says ‘You’re new aren’t you? ‘ promptly after saying he is familiar with those working at the force.
One may question whether the inspector is genuine. Another point that enhances the inspector’s enigma is the way he works. For example he never shows the photo of the murder victim, Eva Smith to more then one person at a time, allowing plenty of room of thought over whether this man was switching pictures or simply fabricating the whole story. The audience is gripped to find out the truth. This does not replace the fear the inspector has implanted in the Birlings with doubt for they continue to comply with the inspector.
Goole’s skill is incomparable. He weakens the speech of his interviewees and is constantly prepared with something to say if one was to oppose him. A good example of this is during the interrogation of Mrs Birling. To begin with the woman holds strong defence saying things like ‘I don’t think we need to discuss it. ‘ Yet the inspector returns this with ‘You have no hope of not discussing it, Mrs Birling. ‘ This is closely followed by ‘I think you did something terribly wrong-‘ This immediately plants Mrs Birling in an awkward situation.
It isn’t long before she is littering the air with her version of the story of Eva Smith. Once again, the inspector displays to the audience that he should be feared. His intellectual speech and interrogation is so great that one would be rather stupid to challenge him in a debate. This leads one on to question who or what the inspector is; for he is unlike any other human. He is obviously not a genuine police officer as Gerald Croft proves to the family and audience when phoning the police station to learn that there is no inspector by that name at the force or in the area altogether.
This links in with the idea of the inspector being a mysterious character. Some may say that the inspector was supernatural, perhaps an angel or maybe a message in the shape of a human. This questioning only begins when the play ends, extended the inspector as a dramatic device outside of the playhouse/theatre. One may assume that J. B. Priestly is trying to teach a lesson and using the inspector as a voice to express his opinion publicly and not just to the family. Because WWII had just ended, Priestly wanted everyone to open their eyes to see what they were doing.
Perhaps realise they were wrong. The general theme of the play is to evaluate ones actions and think about what their repercussions could be. War was controlled by politicians who sent hoards of armies to their doom without thinking of what such death could mean to England. People need to abandon this ignorance. The ‘Fire and blood and anguish’ speech is excellent at promoting this awareness of others and empathising with those whose lives we’ve ruined. ‘But just remember this.
One Eva Smith has gone, ut there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths… We are responsible for each other. ‘ The audience is left with a conscience and a chance to reflect upon themselves. This is one of the most evocative ways the inspector was used throughout the play. I personally believe the inspector was a message to teach the arrogant that if they did not change their ways they will perish. It is up to the audience to take Priestly’s message into account and use it to their own benefit before it is genuinely too late.