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An Inspector Calls Study

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  • Pages: 5
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  • Category: Study

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The introduction to the play offers a lengthy description of the set, helping the audience to picture the scene. With the help from some useful descriptions of the characters, I think the director in the production succeeded to get all the detail across. For example, Mr Birling is a: – “Rather portentous man… rather provincial in his speech” while Mrs Birling is “a rather cold woman and her husband’s social superior”. These attributes of ‘portentousness’ and ‘coldness’ are central to these two characters, and help to explain their behaviour towards Eva Smith.

Priestley prepares the audience before the arrival of the inspector by what Mr. Birling declares: “The Titanic…. unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable”. This suggests to the audience that Birling has no substance to his ‘superior’ knowledge. Another example of irony from Birling: “People say that war’s inevitable and I say fiddlesticks! ” This also shows that his beliefs are usually wrong. The audience would have known that the Titanic sank and there was another making it ironic. It shows Birling as unreliable.

Priestley shows Birling’s philosophy on life:- If you don’t come down sharply on some of these people, they’d soon be asking for the Earth” Before the arrival of the Inspector you can detect unease in the household: – “A man has to make his own way” This shows how selfish Birling is. As the Inspector enters, immediately after the doorbell rings, Birling says: – “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” The significance of the Inspector arriving at that stage is that they will discover everybody influences someone.

The Inspector has his own spotlight, to separate him from the rest of the characters. The lighting changes when the inspector enters. Mr Birling instructs Edna: – “Give us some more light” This symbolises an unnerving presence, Godlike and heavenly. Priestley is attempting to use the lights as a persona and mood changer. The spotlight, being directly above his head should cast a shadow over his face. This will add tension. When the Inspector rings the doorbell, interrupting Birling’s discussion with Gerald, where he says: – “A man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own”

It is ironic that he gets involved and doesn’t mind his own business. Priestley’s description of Inspector Goole as creating “an impression of massiveness, solidity and purpose” is a key characteristic, helping to explain his otherwise surprising ability to dominate the arrogant and hypocritical Birlings and Gerald. The inspector is described as “cutting through massively”, or “taking charge massively” repeating his power and forcefulness. He ‘disconcerting habit of looking hard at the person he addresses before actually speaking. ” This shows that he gains power by his manner over the other person.

Unlike the family he says ‘No, thankyou’ to alcohol because it shows that he likes to be in control of himself. He also likes to control others: – ” It’s the way I like to work. One person at a time” This emphasizes that he is independent and focused. He gets his point across clearly “Its my duty to ask questions” He gives you an idea about his authority. The inspector often speaks “sternly”, “very deliberately”, “coolly”, “gravely”, “steadily” and “with calm authority”. He is mainly shown to be in emotional control. In contrast, the Birlings often speak “miserably”, “bitterly”, “wildly”.

They are much less in control of their emotions. When the inspector does show emotion, it is harsh and angry: – “Stop! And be quiet for a moment and listen to me. ” This reflects his outrage at the callous and selfish behaviour of the Birlings. The stage directions often give a helpful indication of how different characters respond to the inspector’s interrogation, and how they regard him as a character. For example she: – “Laughs rather hysterically” and tells Gerald that “He [Goole] knows”, before looking at him “almost in triumph”

Sheila is the only member of the group to perceive that there is something strange and exceptional about the Inspector: – “You talk as if you were responsible”. The character that mostly changes is Sheila. Firstly she is presented as being vain and spoilt; as shown in the Milward’s incident. The Inspector gets each character to admit to their part in the girl’s death and uses their own words to prove they’re wrong, for example Birling says: – ” They’d soon be asking for the earth than take it” and the inspector replies: “… it’s better to ask for the earth than take it.

This is clearly evidence that he uses the same words but changes the effect. Books written in early period, like Conan Doyle’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ may have influenced Priestley because it has a similar detective theme. Sherlock Holmes and the Inspector are both ‘powerful’ characters and their methods are successful and controlling. Other contexts such as Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” could relate. Birling is comparable with Scrooge for their money greed and the spirits could be compared to the Inspector who helps them to see their troubles.

They also use references from the Bible. Priestley uses his name to put across a message that the Inspector is of spiritual being, the name ‘Goole’ may imply a parallel with ‘Ghoul’ (ghost, spirit). As the Inspector departures, he addresses the Birlings: – “We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other” This suggests people are all different but all connected by life. Each of their lives affected others, by exposing social problem such as: greed, capitalism, jealously, alcoholism, stealing and exploitation of women.

The effect on the audience, then, may have infuriated middle class families because it was stereotyping them, whereas on today’s audience it wouldn’t seem as dramatic. This is because our society today is more materialistic and less spiritual then than. Birling’s a typical Edwardian self-made businessman who believes his only responsibility is to make money. The play doesn’t end when the inspector leaves so there is an opportunity to understand the effect on the characters and demonstrate the inspectors influence continues even though he is absent.

It also gives an opportunity for a ‘cliff hanger’: – A police inspector is on his way” Just as they are convinced themselves of their innocence, a real inspector is about to devour them. This would leave the audience astonished and unsure. The Inspector’s ‘fire and blood’ speech at the end warns the Birlings, ‘in a position of responsibility for others or face dire consequences. Not everyone learns the Inspector’s lesson by the end of the play. The Inspector is described as having a ‘powerful presence’. He has a ‘disconcerting habit of looking hard’ at each character, making it impossible for them to avoid his questions.

He also knows things an ‘ordinary’ inspector would not know indicating he may not be a average policeman. Only the younger members of the Birling family accept any responsibility at the end of the play. As the Inspector says, ‘we have more effect on the young’. The characters are reflected as differing responses to the news of their role in Eva’s death. The stage directions helped to illuminate the dialogue, and added significantly to the play’s dramatic impact when I read or studied it. Without the Inspector, there would be no play. He acts as a catalyst; he causes the others to examine their conscience.

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