During the production of “An Inspector Calls” by J. B Priestley, a theatre critic commented “Priestley’s play is unusual in that a character, the inspector, could be said to direct the action of the play.” The Birling family are astounded by the rude and insolent manner of one Inspector Goole, following his entrance into the “hearty comfortable” setting of the Birling Residence.
J.B Priestley’s play is set in the spring of 1912 in the household of an upper-middle class family in the North of England.The plot of this dramatic play is based around the Birling family’s involvement in a young girl’s suicide. The Birling family consists of two parents, Arthur and Sybil Birling and their two children Eric and Sheila. Gerald Croft is soon to become a member of the family as he has recently announced his engagement to Sheila. As the story unfolds we find that each of the family members is partly to blame. Which member however carries the most blame? It is important to realise that J.
B priestly has made it deliberately difficult to place the blame solely on one person.Inspector Goole is an overpowering yet very definitive, well-structured character. Some people may remark that Priestley uses the inspector to voice his own views and opinions regarding the potential systems, which can be used to govern a country. The inspector is very distinctly the puppeteer as he clearly shows and proves the socialists are obviously in control of the situation and that their tack-tics and strategies are able to pressure and change people. Whereas the communists, as portrayed by the Birling family and Mr. Croft, fall apart throughout the intense interrogation.
I would possibly suggest that Priestley’s intended social message was that we should learn from our mistakes. For example, Mr. Birling and Gerald Croft discuss how “a man has to make his own way” surely this was an intention towards the fact that Eric and Sheila Birling have been born into wealth and somewhat abuse their positions in society. Mr.
Birling has already previously mentioned the Titanic, war and stock markets ” the Titanic is absolutely unsinkable”, “And I say there isn’t a chance of war” and “We’re in for a time of steadily increasing prosperity.” at this point the audience would be far the wiser than the people on the stage as the Titanic would have already sunk on its maiden voyage, they would have witnessed two world wars, and the Wall-Street crash.The issues surrounding sexism are clearly a main feature however not just from the male side of the equation. After dinner the Birling family enjoy a little conversation but then suddenly the table rises and the women along with Eric exit the room.
It is presumed by the reader or indeed by the audience that the women are retiring to a different room to engage in such activities as women did. However it is not made clear of the where about of Eric, the youngest of the Birling family. But this is a clever device employed by Priestley to allow the plot to develop in his absence. Also after the enquiry Mr and Mrs. Birling along with Mr. Croft are continuously attempting to force the engagement between Gerald and Shelia. They do not understand that they are different people after the assumptions and accusations. In addition to the senior Birling’s attempts, Gerald goes about deducing how he might pull the wool over Sheila, and her parent’s eyes.
I presume that the story was set forty years prior to being written because of the great difference in life, the way people conducted themselves and its hypothesis’. I also believe that one of the reasons is that there was so much of a sociological and philosophical variation between the decades in which it was written and performed and that of which it is set, to expose the necessity, felt by Priestley, for people to alter their ideas. The other purpose utilised by Priestley was the ability to expose the naive capitalist ideas of Birling through his humorous statements on future life in England, which the audience knew were incorrect.I intend to assess Priestley’s purpose in great detail offering my opinions, as to his intentions. I will investigate reasons which would explain the inspector’s abnormality and if there is any relation between ‘Goole’ and ‘Ghoul’ and that he was there as a supernatural being to allow the family to see the errors of their ways. During act one, the inspector makes it clear to the Birling family and to Mr.
Croft that he is in control, and that he can corrode their lies. Mr. Birling is pompous and voices his opinions clearly to reinitiate the authority, he does not get very far however because the inspector refuses to be intimidated by him.He does not wish to hear about Mr. Birling’s role as “Mayor” two years previously and that he has “friends in high places”, including the ‘inspector’s’ chief constable, “perhaps I ought to warn you that he’s a friend of mine, and that I see him fairly frequently”. However, the inspector concentrates solely on his cross-examination.
Tempers fray as the inspector delves into the past of Mr. Birling; he obviously cannot believe that he should be responsible for the girl’s death “I’ve half a mind to report you”.This attitude changes somewhat towards the end of act one as he becomes more apprehensive of the inspector and his actions, an example being when Mr.
Birling refuses to have his daughter interrogated by the obnoxious Inspector, Sheila wishes to help the inspector and tell of her encounter with the girl. Sheila, being the intelligent and independent sibling, is the only Birling family member who, at this time takes the valuable lesson which the inspector gives them to heart, expressing her sadness and genuine remorse throughout the life and attitude changing incident. Once Mr. Birling is informed that it is not only an investigation surrounding him but one of the other members of the family as well he is less reluctant to argue however as he sees the focus of attention diverted from himself.