Discuss the role of the Inspector in J.B. Priestley’s play ‘An Inspector Calls.’ What is this characters main function and how effective is he?
‘An Inspector Calls’ was written by J.B. Priestley in 1945, but is set specifically in 1912. The Birlings, an upper-middle class family, are celebrating their daughter’s engagement to a business-rival’s son. Into this scene of celebration comes the Inspector, who is there to investigate the suicide of a young working class woman. In this essay I intend to examine the role of the Inspector in the play, looking at his main functions and how effective he is in his role.
The structure of the play helps to give the entrance of the Inspector greater ...view middle of the document...
This undermines the audience’s belief in the opinions which Birling presents in the opening scene, such as when he says that ‘a man has to mind is own business and look after himself and his own’. This belief as well as his entire attitude in the opening of the play is typical of men in his position; he is concerned only with how well-off he and his family are, and how much respect they have among the upper classes, with precious little regard for at what expense to those around him these things come. He is very sure that things will remain the same socially, saying ‘you’ll be living in a world that’ll have forgotten all these Capital vs. Labour agitations.’ This shows that he is very sure of himself, and thinks that nothing can affect him. Again, the audience know that he is wrong, as in the time when this play was written Britain had a Labour government. The fact that Birling gives his opinions on social issues at the beginning of the play tells the audience where he stands on these things, before we are introduced to the Inspector one of whose roles is to challenge these views.
The Inspector arrives unexpectedly. (Birling) ‘A man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own – and-’ We hear the sharp ring of a front door bell. This gives his character an air of mysteriousness, particularly as he arrives in the evening, interrupting the family’s celebrations. In the time when the play is set Inspectors would not have dared to intrude on such a well-respected family, so the Inspectors arrival would have surprised the Birlings. This is an example of one of the ways that the Inspector acts differently to how the audience would expect an Inspector of the time to operate. It is also odd that he arrives just as Birling is mid-way through a speech on his selfish capitalist views, which the Inspector later argues against. This could be seen as a literal example of the Inspector cutting through Birlings views.
The entrance of the Inspector dramatically alters the mood of the scene. ‘The lighting should be bright pink and intimate until the Inspector arrives and then it should be brighter and harder.’ This change in lighting makes the scene feel more like an interrogation, and this helps the Inspector in his role of getting the truth from the characters. This lighting change matches the change in mood, as the characters go from being pleased with themselves and happy to being shocked and bewildered by the Inspectors entrance. It also tells the audience that the Inspectors entrance will be a pivotal event in the play, and makes them wonder how the Inspectors’ appearance will change things.
The Inspector is immediately presented as a serious and dominant character. ‘He creates at once an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness.’ This shows that he wants the Inspector to seem as though he is fully in control of everything, and that he is very sure of himself. This tells us that the Inspector is a powerful character...