J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls as Detective Fiction
The play “An Inspector Calls” starts of in the genre of detective
fiction. But, as the play goes on, the reader realises that the genre
does also fit into politics and mystery. The play has many conventions
of detective fiction that misleads the reader, not through out but
near the end of the play. When the reader finds out that there is no
revelation scene, one suspects that this play is not detective
fiction, but another genre disguised as detective fiction. This shows
that the true genre of the play is detective pastiche.
The play “An Inspector Calls” is about an upper-middle class family
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Mr. Birling admits his actions, although in most other detective
fiction, the inspector would find it hard to make a person admit. In
“An Inspector Calls”, the Inspector is omniscient of everything, so
there is no need for him to ask for answers, his real aim is to make
his suspects know that they are wrong.
Mr. Birling is accused of starting ‘“A chain of events”’, as Inspector
Goole calls it. The chain of events leads to Eva Smith committing
“Two hours ago a young woman died in the Infirmary. She’d been taken
there this afternoon because she’d swallowed a lot of strong
disinfectant. Burnt her inside out… suicide, of course”.
As any suspect would, Mr. Birling acts defensively, trying to push
away the accusations put on against him: “Still I can’t accept any
A suspect defending himself is another convention of detective
So far in the play these have been the things related to detective
fiction: a accusation, a death, a victim/suspect , and the suspect
defending himself. The diction related to detective fiction so far is
: “died” and “responsibility”. The audience at this time do believe
that the play is detective fiction, because of the conventions and
diction used within a detective fiction.
After the accusation on Mr. Birling’s, the Inspector turns to the
next character. The next character that is accused is Sheila Birling,
daughter of Mr. Birling. Sheila was the person who got Eva Smith out
of her next job at Milwards. After leaving Birlings’ company, Eva
Smith was desperate for money, so she got a job at Milwards- a garment
store, which happened to be Sheila’s favourite shop. One day, Sheila
went to Milwards to look for a dress and she spotted one. Eva Smith
brought it to her and when asked something by the assistant, Eva held
the dress up to herbody. The dress suited her perfectly. But when
Sheila put the dress on, it didn’t suit her at all. She was furious.
Then she caught Eva Smith smiling, as if to say “Doesn’t she look
awful”. Sheila was jealous that the dress suited Eva, so she got the
wrong impression of the smile. In consequence to that, she complained
to the manager to have Eva sacked or she would never shop at Milwards
again and her mother would close their bank account with the shop. As
a result Eva was sacked.
As with Mr. Birling’s accusation, the Inspector is omniscient and
knows that Sheila was the person who got Eva out of her job:
“I had an idea it might be- from something the girl herself wrote”.
The inspector says he gathered all this evidence from Eva’s writing,
there is no evidence, he shows them the picture but not the writing.
The Inspector is still omniscient. He makes Sheila learn lesson of the
actions she commited that day at milwards. Unlike Mr. Birling, Sheila