An Inspector Calls by J.B.Priestley
"Priestley's play is unusual in that a character, the Inspector, could
be said to direct the action of the play."
This is a comment made by a theatre critic about the play "An
Inspector Calls", and the character, Inspector Goole. By studying the
play, I find that I can justify myself in agreeing with the critic's
statement; that the Inspector does direct and control the action of
I am aware of how Priestley has incorporated various strategies and
techniques of control into the character of the Inspector, which are
use continuously throughout the play. Also, of Priestley's use of
dramatic irony to ...view middle of the document...
It would be
unusual for a police inspector to stand up to Birling, which would
cause him to think twice about this "Inspector Goole". This air of the
unusual about the Inspector gives him a certain degree of control over
The women of the upper classes were "protected against unpleasant and
disturbing things" (Act Two). So when the Inspector announces for all
to hear that a girl committed suicide by drinking disinfectant and
"lies with a burnt-out inside on a slab", the women of the house would
be shocked and distressed. He continually mentions, in graphic detail,
the suicide, which always stirs a response from one of the family
members, male or female. He is also able to stop people mid-speech. An
example of both of these techniques is found in Act One:
Sheila: Yes but it didn't seem to be anything very terrible at the
time. Don't you understand? And if I could help her now, I would-
Inspector: (harshly) Yes, but you can't. It's too late. She's dead.
Eric: My God, it's a bit thick, when you come to think of it -
The Inspector always appears to have an answer. Whatever questions
they throw at him, he has an adequate response. His retaliations can
also be seen to imply something. For example, when Birling and Gerald
are saying that employees would "soon be asking for the earth." The
"They might. But after all it's better to ask for the earth then to
take it" (Act One).
This implies that Birling treats his employees badly and takes all
they have to give. Again, the upper classes would not expect such
impertinent behaviour from a police inspector. His coolness and
responsiveness mean he can keep control over certain arrogant
He exerts his control and command over the characters when he will
only interview one person at a time because "otherwise there's a
Even when under pressure from Birling to question Eric next, he sticks
to his guns and tells him "He [Eric] must wait his turn."
This sort of assertiveness would not be expected, as I've mentioned
His main technique to gain control is to talk down to them even though
they're upper class citizens. This shocks them into subsidence. The
best example of this is found on page 46, when the Inspector says,
"don't stammer and yammer at me again, man. I'm losing all patience
with you people."
The result of this display of superiority and emotion induces Mrs.
Birling to reveal what Eva said to her, which is what the Inspector
wanted to hear. This clearly shows that the Inspector knows how best
to affect this type of people and can control them easily.
The way in which the characters respond to him, gives him the upper
hand because he knows exactly how to play each of them to extract the
information he wants. In the instance of Mr and Mrs...