This is an example of the Inspector dominating the family and undermining Mr Birling’s influence over his family, by controlling the characters he can also control the audience as well, he influences their opinions of the characters. The Inspector breaks this down and finally turns half of his own family against him. He is naturally intimidating by his physical appearance. In the stage directions it says that, “He need not be a big man but he creates at once an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness. He is a man in his fifties, dressed in a plain darkish suit of the period. He speaks carefully, weightily and has a disconcerting habit of looking hard at the person he addresses before actually speaking to them.”
This implies that he has a presence of authority, and that he is naturally a director and narrator. The first time the audience see him, they can realise that he is the director on stage, and that the other characters will be his puppets. His role of narrator of the play is important and adds to the structure of the play as he skilfully manages to guide the line of enquiry back onto course as soon as the family start bickering between themselves.
The Inspector is also there as the policeman of ethics and as the confessor to the family. He is there to make sure the characters face up to their morals and judge themselves instead of others around them. He is in the play to hunt for bits of information and dive into the surreptitious nature of the family. One definition of the character of the Inspector was ” a catalyst, as someone who creates the possibility for others to face up to what they have done” I agree with this definition as he sparks off ideas in people’s minds but leaves it for them to change.
I do not concur with the proposal that the Inspector “existence is a result of the girl’s death” I don’t believe this because I don’t believe that his strong morals are just from Eva’s suicide. The audience have their own views about the Inspector, and what he is there to do, this makes him a dramatically successful character, as he sparks off ideas in the audience’s minds, he controls their views and allows the audience to see his own views of the characters, and therefore society.
Priestley makes the Inspector dramatically successful in many different ways. Because the Inspector directs the action on stage, this allows him to direct the audience as well. Priestley gives us something to dislike about each character, and gives the audience a hope that these characters will be brought down. This controls the thoughts of the audience about the characters and then so changes their views on society, as they relate the characters to themselves and people in their world.
He makes the Inspector seem to be in the right at all times, this is because of the timing of the play. It was written in 1945 but set in 1912, and as the Inspector is Priestley the Inspector in a sense knows what has happened in the future, as the audience all ready know that Titanic sunk, and two world wars have happened. The other characters in the play know nothing of this. This is dramatic irony. This is the main way that Priestley controls the audience’s thoughts, so this is how the Inspector controls the characters and the audience.
He makes sure that the other characters are seen to be fools especially Mr Birling, as he embodies all the capitalist values that Priestley wanted to put down. “The Titanic- she sails next week – forty six thousand eight hundred tons- forty six thousand eight hundred tons- New York in five days- and every luxury- and unsinkable” ” I say there isn’t a chance of war. The world’s developing so fast that it’ll make war impossible” This shows Mr Birling to be totally at fault.
The audience know what has happened in the past. Priestley’s use of time allows the audience to be more involve and lets them know more that the characters, which makes the play more successful in the audience’s eyes and makes the play more interesting and more entertaining, as they can see that the views that the characters have are completely wrong. This allows Priestley and therefore the Inspector to convey the message about the society in 1912, and those they needed to change. This is made entertaining by the play and the audience can relate to it easier than a political broadcast. This helps the control of the Inspector, as he knows everything, he can almost see into the future as he is Priestley and he has lived through the devastation in the past years.
Ultimately dramatic irony is used so that Priestley could successfully convey his views on society. The Inspector is also there to convey political beliefs and society’s values. The Inspector is obviously a socialist. At first his views are subtle, then they get stronger until the final speech, which is a strong political message for the audience. He is there to portray socialist attitudes in a good light, as the Inspector to the audience is always correct, that is why I think Priestley chose him to be a police inspector as in the time he wrote, it police inspectors were seen as honest upholding citizens.
He is around to impart people about socialist attitudes like taking responsibility for your actions, helping each other, sacrificing individual wealth, people’s actions and the effect they have on others, supporting one another and that everybody is equal. He is also there to show the socialist political message as well, things like community, social security, systems owned by the community, equality of opportunity and wealth and abolishing personal wealth would be to the benefit of everybody. These are strong political messages that the inspector has to get across, as these are the views of J. B. Priestley.
“She was here alone, friendless, almost penniless, desperate. She needed not only money but advice, sympathy, friendliness. You’ve had children. You must have known what she was feeling. And you slammed the door in her face.” He is also there to show the themes of the play, I have already discussed the social message and the political view. He is also there to show morality, he becomes a voice of conscience. Respectability is another theme of the play that the inspector explores as it was of great importance in Edwardian times, the Birling’s believe that because they had money and therefore power that they also had respectability, the Inspector is there to teach them that respectability comes with morals and ethics. Via the Inspector, Priestley tells us about responsibility and power. The more power you have the more influence you can have.
The Birling’s and Gerald are just using their power for the good of themselves; they have also abused their power and led to Eva Smith’s death. Priestley shows us using classes that the upper, more powerful class have influence in society and can affect the lower classes, this is what the Birling’s did, so the Inspector is there to instruct them that with power comes responsibility, the more power you have the more responsibilities you have. Being responsible for yourself is not enough, ” we are all responsible for each other” and that everybody is equal and deserve to be treated equitably.
Priestley makes sure the Inspector explores conscience and guilt, the Inspector acts as a ghoulish manifestation of each character’s conscience. He manages to pull out their confessions, Sheila along with the Inspector believe that they have to ” share their guilt” and face up to the guilt, some of the family haven’t done and carry on as if nothing has happened. The Inspector and therefore Priestley believe that people need to face up to their guilt and listen to their conscience.
The Inspector and Priestley see all the characters to be at fault but maybe not equally. Mr Birling started the vicious chain of events and he would not take any responsibility for her death. Priestley uses Mr Birling’s speech about the “unsinkable Titanic” and the “war scares” to show how Mr Birling’s views were completely incorrect and shows Mr Birling up for the fool he is, Priestley manipulates time by doing this and also uses dramatic irony and the audience know that the titanic sunk and the war scares turned out to be two wide scale world wars.
Sheila acted out of insane jealously and abused her power she was also to blame, but she changed her views and ideals, Gerald in my opinion was let off lightly but he made her happy for a while, the Inspector did not blame him as much as the others, the Inspector blames Mrs Birling the most as she turned her away when she was in need and mistreated the influence she had. Eric is also to blame in the eyes of the inspector but he has changed, his drinking problem made him to blame, acting irresponsible. Priestley blames Mrs. Birling the most and Gerald the least I think. Priestley uses Mr and Mrs Birling as mouthpieces for all he is criticizes in society.
He is also blaming capitalist people with capitalist views about money, control and power, selfishness, arrogance and snobbery. He is blaming these people with these views for the wars that he had served in, and the state of the country between the time that the play was set and the time the play was written. Priestley uses the Inspector to make understood his views of society and the political and economic status. He made the Inspector a powerful man with morals but low in the class system, he is average age in an average suit, an average man. But he managed to drag the truth out of this rich, snobbish family who couldn’t be more pleased with themselves.