An Inspector Calls
Inspector Google’s Entrance: a Critique
Inspector Goole’s entrance is very important as it affects the whole mood and atmosphere. It says in the stage directions that the lighting should be pink and intimate, as it is a joyful occasion for the Birling family, until the Inspector arrives and then it should change to be brighter and harder. I think this is because Priestly wants to create a noticeably colder atmosphere upon the Inspectors presence.
In the Royal National Theatre production of “An Inspector Calls”, when the Inspector emerged onto the stage, the Birlings’ house split into two allowing him in. Metaphorically, this represents how the Inspector, later on in the play divides, morally, the older and younger generations of the Birling family. The family is also exposed by the use of light, “Give us more light.” This is symbolic because not only does it let you enter the Birlings’ world but it also reveals to the audience their true inner characters.
The Inspector’s entrance clearly affects the mood of the play. In the initial scene directions Priestley instructed that the lighting should become “brighter and harder” when the Inspector arrives, which gives him an advantage, for the family can no longer hide behind the rosy glow.
The Inspector makes it clear that his purpose is to establish exactly whom it is that made “a nasty mess” of Eva Smith’s life. I noticed that he does not spare the Birlings any of the harsh images of the suicide victim, and the audience realise that he is very single-minded in pursuing his chosen line of investigation. He is not like a normal Police Officer in the way that they show respect for people they encounter, whereas, he is sometimes quite rude and ill mannered to the Birlings which shocks Mrs.Birling – “I beg your pardon!” Priestley uses Goole to make judgements about characters, which they feel are unusual and inappropriate in a Police Inspector. He undermines their complacent assumption that they are respectable citizens. Those characters that resist telling the Inspector the truth suffer more than those who are more open. On the other hand, you could say that he also plays the traditional role of a Policeman in a “whodunit” story, slowly uncovering the truth through careful questioning, piecing together evidence with shrewd insight. Although in this case, not one character has done anything to Eva Smith, which a Court of Law would describe as a crime. I think that Goole almost considers the Birling family as a single body encouraging them to acknowledge their guilt for Eva’s suicide. The Inspector persuades characters to reveal things that they would rather were not known. Sheila points our that there is something about the Inspector which makes them tell him things, “we hardly ever told him anything he didn’t know. Did you notice that?” because they felt that he already knows.
At the end of the play, during the Inspector’s final speech, he begins his summing-up as a judge would. In the “trial” of the various characters, he has acted sometimes as the counsel for the defence, at other times as the counsel for the prosecution. I think that Priestley wanted the audience to play the part of the jury, deciding who is guilty and who is not. The family protest that they are “respectable citizens”, not criminals, however, the Inspector informs them that, “sometimes there isn’t as much difference as you think”, between guilt and innocence. This key point, which the Inspector brings up, was his central message throughout the play. The Inspector’s main concern is that they have to be responsible for one another, and to avoid being complacent. He wants them to realise that they are all intertwined and have a bearing on each other’s lives.
In the last line of the Inspector’s final speech, Priestley uses a number of devices – “Then they will be taught in fire and blood and anguish”. Talking negatively about the Birling family makes the speech sound strong and memorable with a biblical tone, as it involves an audience who have been through two world wars. The Inspector’s prophecy was intended, by Priestley, to shake post-war audiences and remind them of the necessity of being responsible for one another. Furthermore a technique J.B.Priestley uses to influence the audience is dramatic irony. He makes the audience feel an underlying sense of unease by the ironic reference by Mr.Birling to the impossibility of war, “You’ll hear some people say that war’s inevitable. And to that I say – fiddlesticks! The Germans don’t want war. Nobody wants war”. War, which was of course to follow in 1914. This technique is successful because it causes the audience to realise how arrogant the character of Mr.Birling is and what bad judgement he has.
The Inspector leaves, dramatically, without giving the characters a chance to recover from his words. It is significant because for a few seconds after his dramatic departure, they are all better people for his visit. It does not take long for the four depressed characters on stage to regain their confidence and for the two clearest examples, Mr and Mrs.Birling, who believe that they have escaped any repercussions for their actions. The Inspector’s departure is the signal for recriminations to break out, “You’re the one I blame for this.” significantly, Mr.Birling begins this, blaming Eric for everything. He is particularly worried about the “public scandal” which may ensue, showing again his concern about his image and status.
Like many of its characters and events, the play itself turns out to be very different from what it had seemed first to be. I think that the audience’s enjoyment of the play could come from trying to guess who the guilty party is before the Inspector reveals his answer. The way the Inspector’s final speech is structured and the language that is used, makes it clear that Priestly wanted the audience to feel the speech was directed at them also, perhaps they too had been guilty of such similar unfair treatment to others? Although Priestley has constructed his play as though it was realistic, it is in fact more like a parable – a story with a hidden moral for us all. To have revealed the Inspector’s identity as a hoaxer or as some kind of “spirit” would have spoilt the unresolved tension that is so effective at the end of the play.
I think the play is still relevant today because it would make any audience wonder if they believe “a man has to make his own way – has to look after himself” or whether they believe “what we think, say and do affects people’s hopes and fears”.
In An Inspector Calls, Priestley portrays inspector Goole as a peculiar mysterious man. His name Goole having the same pronunciation as “ghoul”, in another word a ghost/spirit. This suggests perhaps someone who has an interest in death and maybe is sent as Eva’s afterlife to haunt the guilt of the Birlings. Somehow like a supernatural almost. He is an omniscient character meaning he has unlimited knowledge which therefore explains the idea of him taking control of the situation and slowly breaking down the truth creating a story of a “chain of events”.To start off, in act 1 Priestley conveys the appearance of inspector Goole through the use of stage directions. As the inspector enters, Priestley introduces him as ‘a big man’ who “creates at once an impression of massiveness,solidity, and purposefulness”. This line illustrates to the audience the importance of his role because he creates an impression of dominance. This is because it is not his appearance that adds tension, but rather his presence/manner that creates a sense of fear towards his suspects. In other words, he overpowers the Birlings with his presence.
Priestley further empowers inspector Goole through the use of the adjectives “ massiveness” “solidity” and “purposefulness”, which is a tricolon technique. Priestley’s use of “solidity’ represents the Inspector’s ability to remain composed even when characters breakout. The effect on the audience is that they would be curious to find out more of him and how he is going to develop the play. Another way Priestley presents the role of Inspector Goole is through his dialogue, him (inspector Goole) being Priestley’s dramatic tool. He controls the pace and tension in the play with “one person and one inquiry at a time” This reinforces the idea of authority. He methodically works and investigates chronologically from one person to another, developing the conversations all linking them up together to make a “chain of events”, therefore he creates tension and suspense. The repetition of the noun “one” recommend that a person is protruding to express their guilt in many ways. It suggests to us how he does things his way and knows the whole story relating to Eva Smith’s death. In act 2, Priestley conveys his socialist views through inspector Goole using him as a mouthpiece. During his conversation with Mr. Birling, he comments “ Public men, Mr. Birling has responsibilities as well as privileges.” This shows that the inspector looks at everyone equally which then relates to the theme ‘social change’ and how it developed. He doesn’t approve of the class division and is directly aiming to Mr. Birling who is from the upper class, that wealth and social standings need to be used properly.
Towards the end, Inspector Goole delivers a message to the birlings, almost as if him being a god-like figure giving a lecture. In his final speech, he mentions “We don’t live alone, we are members of one body, we are responsible for each other”. This simply highlights Priestley’s socialist ideals through the inspector, as he is trying to reference that we are all part of one group/community, so we should help one another especially those who are in need and vulnerable. He states “members of one body” as if referring to a human body where if one of the organs don’t work then the rest of the body does not function, meaning everyone should work together to prevent any difficulty in life. This is also a metaphor. Furthermore, the pronoun “we” suggests everyone has responsibilities including him. The term “member” is utilized as its a way of saying that you are a part of something special. From this quotation, Priestley shows how powerful inspector Goole is by portraying the social responsibilities that we have to look after. Priestley’s intention to the audience is how everyone should behave morally and not let the harsh reality beat you down. In addition to act 3, Priestley develops the importance of inspector Goole through a vivid but honest speech. Inspector Goole’s closing line states “If men will not learn that lesson then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish”. This quotation simply indicates the consequences of not obeying the social responsibility of each other and reinforces the idea that, people need to learn how to cope with such conditions or else they’ll result battling in hell-like catastrophe.
Priestley uses dramatic irony about the horror of ww1 (when the play was set in 1912) and during the ww2 (when the play was written in 1945). This shows that the problem of the ruling classes is that they did not learn the lessons of the first world war resulting in the massive slaughter in ww2. In reference to inspector Goole’s importance, Priestley uses him to communicate and send his message and viewpoint to the audience, making the character seem like a prophet. This last line is seen as a warning for the future. Furthermore, the use of ‘fire’ and ‘blood’ gives the audience a vivid imagery and leaves them thinking about our responsibility and what it could result to if we disobey. In conclusion, inspector Goole plays a really important part in the play as he is the main character besides Eva. As I mentioned before, he is Priestley’s socialist voice, his vector, and his mouthpiece. His function was to make a change towards the selfishness of wealthy privileged people, for example, the Birlings. Inspector Goole not only does he force them to admit their guilt/responsibility but also tests their relationship strengths as a family. Overall, I think that Priestley is successful when it comes to displaying his socialist views and ideas because he uses dramatic dialogue, stage directions, and characterization to show how everyone should be treated equally/fairly, no matter who they are and which class he or she is from. He awakens the audience about the moral social responsibilities and its consequences.
An Inspector Calls: An Analysis of Inspector Goole
The Inspector introduces himself as Inspector Goole, a police officer who has come to scrutinize about a young woman called Eva Smith/Daisy Renton. Half way through act one when the Inspector arrives, J.B Priestley describes him as a man of “massiveness, solidity and purposefulness” this shows that he is an imposing figure who will control the play and be the centre of the it too.
The Inspector knows how to make an entrance and an exit too. Firstly he interrupts the Birling family gathering this shows that his timing is crucial. Priestley has the Inspector ring the bell just as Arthur says “a man has to mind his own business”. It’s as if Birling’s statement summons the Inspector to prove the exact opposite. The Inspector uses exits as a clever tactic. At the end of act one the Inspector Leaves Sheila and Gerald alone together this lets Sheila question Gerald and allows the time for mistrust to break them apart. The stage directions where “as Eric moves, the Inspector looks from Sheila to Gerald, then goes out with Eric.” This also makes it easier to get Gerald to confess when the Inspector returns. The Inspector says that if the Birlings don’t learn their lesson, they will be taught it in “Fire and Blood and Anguish”. After his last exit there’s a sudden silence because no one else is speaking. The audience, like the characters on stage, are left “starring, subdued and wondering”.
The Inspector arrives very unexpectedly which shows he’s a man of mystery that’s why in the last act Mr Birling says “Was it a hoax”. He is described as authoritative and imposing. He’s not a big man – but his presence fills the room.
Inspector Goole has come to the house to stir the consciences of the Birlings. He does this when he first mentions what happened to Daisy Renton is an example of emotive language “Two hours ago a young woman died in the infirmary. She’d been taken there this afternoon because she swallowed a lot of strong disinfectant. Burnt her inside out, of course.” He says that she’s now lying “with a burnt-out inside on a slab”. This has been mentioned several times which is shocking for the audience and should also be for the Birlings. Sheila and Eric are the characters most affected by what the Inspector says unlike their parents.
His “Authority” strengthens his strong Ethical tone. He makes sure that everyone recognises that he’s in charge; he does this by showing he is not impressed with Mr Birling’s achievements but also by “massively” interrupting which means that he cuts into the dialogue “with authority”. His authority makes people take him more seriously and makes everything he says sound more important.
The Inspector happens to be more ruthless to some people than others for example Mr and Mrs Birling need firmer treatment. Firstly he answers his own questions for example when Sybil refuses to confess there was a committee meeting he says, “You know very well there was, Mrs Birling” this shows that it he doesn’t like their answers he will answer for them. Secondly in order to piece up a confession he asks question after question for example when Sybil won’t say she convinced the committee to reject Eva Smith’s application he asks “Was it or was it not your influence?” Lastly he says he’s found “a rough sort of a diary” which was written by Daisy/Eva.
The Inspector is the driving force of the play because he’s the one who asks the questions but he knows all the answers. The Inspector forces more information out of the family by bluntly saying what the other characters try to hide. For example when Gerald’s describing how he met Daisy Renton, the Inspector asks “and then you decided to keep her – as your mistress?” but it’s not a real question, it just makes Gerald admit the truth. Being blunt is one of the Inspectors tactics. He also tells new information which heightens the drama, such as when he drops it into the conversation “that girl was going to have a child”.
Priestly uses the Inspector as a mouthpiece. The Inspector doesn’t have a neutral position in the play because he’s on Eva/Daisy side, and he tells the Birling what he thinks of them. Priestley’s own views are reflected in the opinions of the Inspector. This is made clear during the last speech the Inspector said because the way he is speaking to the Birling family, Priestly could be saying the speech to the play’s audience.
Toward the end of the play, the audience aren’t sure who or what the Inspector is. His name sounds like the word “Ghoul” which means ghost. Or he could be religious or moral figure. The Inspector also has the attitude of a philosopher and social observer and has a good knowledge of Daisy Renton/Eva Smith. Also Mr and Mrs Birling together don’t think he has the authority to tell them off because he isn’t a police officer. The only people who realise the Inspectors moral judgement is just as important as his legal power is Sheila and Eric. But Sheila and Eric don’t know that he is not an Inspector and that he has no legal power until the end. The Inspector leaves the family with a message “We are responsible for each other” which shows that he is becoming to sound less like an Inspector. Also his final speech is said as though he is a Politician.
The Inspector summarises that Arthur Birling started it all by sacking Eva Smith. Sheila Birling turned her out of her second job. Gerald kept her as a mistress and made her happy for a while. Eric “used her” because he was drunk. And lastly Sybil Birling refused her a “pitiable little bit of organized charity”. Lastly the play has a strong message about looking after one another, and it was the Inspector’s job to deliver it.
Relationships Between Two Generations in Priestley’s an Inspector Calls
How are the relationships between the two generations presented by Priestly?
One of the main themes presented by Priestley in “An inspector calls” is the divide between the two generations who both have different ideas in response to taking responsibility or changing their actions in the future. This is shown through the direct relationships between characters of different generations and the tension created which is presented through the change in tones of voices towards other characters and the development in the way they interact. The concept of different generations is also explored more generally which at the time would have the audience questioning the idea of a segregated society with clear divisions between the different classes which was very topical when the play was first performed in 1945.
One way the relationships between the two generations is clearly presented to the audience is through the interaction between Shelia and Mrs Birling, whose relationship arguably shows the most development. At the beginning of the play Sheila refers to Mrs Birling as “mummy” but by the end of Act three she simply calls her “mother”. This distinctive change from colloquial to more formal language may reference that Sheila has grown up out of her immaturity and naivety. However, an alternative interpretation is that she has become more distanced from her mother as he disapproves of her actions and her denying her involvement in the accident of Eva Smith. Furthermore, during the three acts Sheila becomes more independent and stands up for what she believes in. Mrs Birling says “[After a pause recovering herself] Sheila I simply don’t understand your attitude”. The concept of young women speaking against their mothers in a more aggressive manner and speaking for themselves may mean that in this play Sheila is a symbol for the drastic change in the role of women in society and the idea that they can stand up for themselves. Furthermore, Sheila is also shown to the audience as being more mature than her mother in regards to her understanding of the fact that class and social status will not change the situation they are stuck in. Sheila states “We’ve no excuse now for putting on airs and if we’ve any sense we won’t try”, stating that no matter the position they hold in society it does not change their actions or give them an excuse for acting the way they did. So therefore, one way in which Priestley presents the generation gap is between the development of individual character relationship such as Sheila and Mrs Birling and their different views on ideas such the importance of social class.
In general, the relationships between the two generations and not presented to the audience in a positive light and generally hint towards a lack of love and closeness. There is an overall lack of community and familiarity within the family itself first presenting to us through the stage direction “The general effect is substantial and heavily comfortable but not cosy and homelike”. This quote shows how the Birling’s use the accumulation of their possessions to show off their status or an alternative interpretation is that their home is seen as fake and pretend and therefore may be inferring to the audience that they buy possessions to make up for the love they don’t have. This idea of there not being any intimacy in the relationship is heavily emphasised in the relationship between Eric and his parents. When Eric is first presented to us he is said to be “[Not quite at ease]”, indicating that he is not comfortable sitting with his family also suggesting it is a rare occasion that they are all together. Furthermore, the idea that Mrs Birling was unaware of Eric and his drinking problem insinuates that she is not involved in his life as she is described as being “[shocked]”. Additionally, Eric is described as saying “[bitterly] you haven’t made it any easier for me mother”, the adjective “bitterly” implies that he doesn’t have any real love for her. As a result, this idea of a lack of caring between the two generations is shown to the audience through actual stage directions as well as the involvement Mrs Birling had in her son’s life.
Priestley also explores the relationship between the two generations in general by presenting different reactions and ideas towards concepts such as responsibility and being forced to recognise the significance of their actions and the consequences they had. The two characters belonging to the younger generation, Sheila and Eric, both show willingness to acknowledge their roles in the incident, for example, Sheila says, “I behaved badly too. I know I did. I’m ashamed of it”. This greatly contrasts with Mr and Mrs Birling who are both unable to the see the importance of the actions presented to the audience clearly through Mrs Birling saying “I accept no blame”. Furthermore, Sheila and Eric and both more moved by the incident involving Eva Smith and are seen as more empathetic with Sheila being described as “[distressed]”. The younger generation also seem to be more in touch with their human emotions and face their consciousness, yet the older generation seem to be unable of evoking pathos as they ultimately resort to money to solve everything. Mr Birling offers to pay “thousands and thousands” in order to right the death of Eva Smith suggesting that he does not think there is another way to express his guilt which he ultimately ends up denying. Therefore, the two generations are brought together by Priestley when they are faced with concepts such as responsibility and the way they deal with their guilt. Furthermore, how they express their emotions, whether they are more in touch with their feelings or if they are clouded by materialistic objects such as money.
The two generations are also related as a whole and the differences between them are compared when it comes to the idea of people changing their ways, mostly explored in the end of Act Three when the prospect of the Inspector being a hoax arises. The younger generation are opposed to the thought of them reverting to their selfish ways shown through Sheila saying “[passionately] You’re pretending everything is just as it was before”. Sheila and Eric are both willing to accept the consequences and as a result change their ways and become better people. This juxtaposes with the older generation who admit their actions yet still they refuse to change their ways and are “ready to go on in the same old way” pretending as nothing ever happened. This unwillingness to change also shows that they think they can get away with their actions and nothing will ever happen but also disregard what happened because the girl was of a lower class in comparison to them. Therefore, the willingness to change is something that relates the two different age groups together with the younger generation willing to become better people in the future. This clearly shows Priestley’s message that some people who are stuck in their traditional ways are only concerned about themselves and not with others and the world will only begin to change for the better when people adopt Sheila and Eric’s point of view.
In conclusion, the idea of the contrasting two generations is one of the most prevalent ideas Priestley explores because when the play was performed in 1945, it was a time of women holding more importance as well as the divisions between social classes diminishing, something that the two different generations held distinctive views on. This concept is explored through characters being symbolic such as Sheila representing the new role of women in society and the two younger characters holding beliefs that they need to change their ways and attitudes towards the lower class by accepting responsibility for their actions as well as facing their consciousness. This then allows them to feel empathy for others something the contrasting older generation seem incapable of doing. Not only does Priestley explore the overall relationship between the two generations by seeing the way their views contradict, but he also explores it more deeply through individual relationships of characters. In these two ways, he effectively presents to the audience the idea of the opposing generations and their relationships.
Portrayal of the Abuse of Authority in J.B. Priestley’s Play An Inspector Calls based on Main Characters
Abuse of Authority
Some individuals possess greater authority than others. The possession of authority is beneficial and makes life more pleasant but although it brings so much ease to life, it can easily be abused to bring harm to others. In the play, An Inspector Call by JB Priestley, there are three characters that abuse their authority on a weaker character. Eric abuses his physical power, Arthur abuses his economic power, and Sybil abuses her power of social connections on Eva Smith.
Firstly, it is apparent that Eric abuses his physical power on Eva Smith. Eric do not love Eva but he gets with Eva just to fulfill his desire: I wasnt in love with her or anythingshe was a good sport. (Priestley, 49) He sees Eva as a sexual object and not as another human being. He forces himself on her, and takes advantage of her while he is drunk: I was in that state when a chap easily turns nasty- and I threatened to make a row. (Priestley, 49) Erics wrongful act is carried out by the excessive consume of alcohol, which takes away his control over himself, thus making him to create a big mistake. Eric abuses his physical power on Eva, resulting her to get pregnant.
Secondly, Arthur abuses his economic power over Eva. Even though Arthur is wealthy, he is not willing to share little bit of his wealth with those who work hard to run his factory. He rejects their request when they ask for three more shillings: I refused. Said I couldnt consider it. We were paying the usual rates, they could go and work somewhere else. Its a free country, I told them. (Priestley, 12) Arthur cannot care more about anything but money so he rejects Evas request for three more shillings and instead he fires her for it, even though Eva was one of the hard working employee. Arthur is a big capitalist who believes that he does not have responsibility to help anyone, and so he does not consider what situation Eva is in, when he fires her. Arthurs abuse on Eva puts her in a desperate situation by economically bankrupting her.
Lastly, Sybil abuses her power of social connection over Eva. Sybil is the character that leads Eva to commit suicide by rejecting Evas last cry for help: I didnt like her manner. Shed impertinently made use of our name, though she pretended afterwards it just happened to be the first she though of (Priestley, 42) Sybil is from a high class and she is even more pompous and arrogant than any other characters in the play. She has social connections, which provide her with great authority that can annihilate and torture someone as weak as Eva. Evas request for help in the Brumley Womans Charity Organization is the last help she asks for as a poor lady in the streets who is about to go through her labour. Evas explanation to Sybil about her desperate situation does not convince Sybil at all and Sybil rejects to help her just because she dose not like Evas manner, the fact that Eva introduces herself as Mrs. Birling. As a lady working in the charity organization, Sybil is suppose to help anyone who asks for help, but she rejects Eva with no apparent reason. It is not reasonable excuse for Sybil to reject a poor persons request for help, just because the persons manner bothers her. Sybil cares more about her family name rather than saving someones life. The rejection from the charity organization brings Eva down to where she could no longer carry out her life. Like other characters, Sybil also parts in leading Eva to her death, but Sybils responsibility over Evas death is somewhat greater than the other characters, since she works in a charity organization.
There are people who use their authority in helping others and creating a better place for everyone, but some people like Eric, Arthur and Sybil abuses their authority to bring harm to others who are weaker than themselves. The victim in the play is Eva Smith who gets physically abused, gets fired and gets rejected from a charity organization. Individuals like Eric, Arthur and Sybil have choices as to help or to reject to help others, and in the play the characters chooses not to help a weaker character. Around the world, there are millions of people like Eva who suffers from poverty, hunger and fear, and if everyone refuses to give them help, how will the world be like? Nobody is responsible to help other people, but some people help others even though they dont have to.
An inspector’s call: A look at the theme of surprising sympathy as shown by Eric and his audience
Throughout the opening scenes of Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, Eric is portrayed as little more than a drunken child (‘only a boy’, as his Mother would have put it). If the work is considered to be a morality play, then Eric is perhaps guilty of the sins of lust, gluttony and sloth. Later in the play, however, despite the revelations of his poor treatment of Eva Smith, the audience does gain some sympathy for him as we realise he is a sensitive and rather ‘lost’ character, who perhaps longs for a more supportive and fulfiling relationship with his family.
Even at the opening of the play, Eric appears to be an outsider. The opening stage directions describe him as being ‘not quite at ease’ and Priestley emphasises that he is ‘half-shy, half-assertive’ and therefore at odds with the other characters, i.e. the ‘easy well-bred Gerald’ and the ‘heavy-looking, rather portentous’ Arthur Birling. Eric says very little in Act One – speaking only to congratulate and tease his sister on her engagement (‘she’s got a nasty temper sometimes – but she’s not bad really’.) and to laugh at their solemnity (‘Eric suddely guffaws’). Indeed, throughout Act One there are a number of hints that Eric has had rather too much to drink (‘You’re squiffy’) and it is implied that this is a coping strategy he employs to avoid confrontation or criticism (‘Could I have a drink first?’). At this point, he seems rather a weak and self-indulgent character with whom the audience would not sympathise.
It is, however, clear that Eric commands very little respect in the family and, when he tries to challenge his father’s rather old-fashioned and short-sighted views about the likelihood of war, he is met with short shrift.
Mr Birling: Everything to lose and nothing to gain by war.
Eric: Yes, I know- but still-
Mr Birling: Just let me finish, Eric.
The fact that Priestley employs dramatic irony here (an audience in 1945 would have been all to aware that war did, in fact, break out in 1914) may improve the audience’s opinion of Eric. He has, at least, more insight than his seemingly stubborn and ignorant father.
To both of his parents, Eric is little more than a ‘boy’ who has ‘a lot to learn’, rather than a young man who can face up to consequences. His opinions are not sought in the Birling household and he is frequently treated like a child. When he challenges his father about the unfairness of his actions in punishing the workers from his factory who went out on strike, Birling tells his son that his views are ‘rubbish’ and advises him to ‘keep out of this’. In this way, then, the audience does have some sympathy for him, as it is clear he is desperately unhappy in his job and in his role in the Birling family.
On the other hand, Eric is later revealed to be involved with both the suicide of Eva Smith and, in addition, stealing money from his father’s firm. He openly admits to treating Eva ‘like and animal, a thing, not a person’, which revokes most feelings of sympathy towards Eric- the audience sympathised with him up until this point as he wasn’t valued by his family, however he has revealed he had no respect or value for this young woman either. He was no better than the other members of his family; he was simply abusing his status to take power over a young woman. Eric tries to justify his use of Eva as well as the stolen money by saying he would provide Eva with the care she needed. All in all, he played a significant part in Eva Smith’s death – he met her at the Palace Bar, forced his way into her home and got her pregnant becaus he ‘was in that state when a chap easily turns nasty.’ He then stole money from his father’s business in order to support her. If this became public, the family’s reputation would have been ruined.
Regardless, Eric regains sympathy in the final act of the play. He does genuinely seem apologetic and, to and extent, traumatised by the consequences of his actions. He understands his role and outcome in the ‘chain of events’ leading to Eva’s suicide (‘The fact remains that I did what I did’), and he and Sheila – the ‘impressionable youth’ – are the only ones who show remorse, but continue to express it when the Inspector was shown to be a hoax. These solemn acts of sorrow and acceptence of guilt make the audience have an increased level of sympathy towards Eric. It isn’t Eric’s actions that make him a sympathetic character, but the emotions he displayed. He is, throughout the play, a deeply emotional character, and this helps guide the audience to not only ultimately sympathise with him, but have a very small feeling of respect towards him.
The transformation of Sheila as illustrated in An inspector’s call
Sheila’s character changes massively throughout J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, often in a manner that registers increasing maturity. At first, Sheila is presented through stage directions as a ‘pretty girl in her early twenties, very pleased with life and rather excited’; she is pictured as a ‘childish,’ young girl who ‘bickers’ with her brother, calling him ‘squiffy’ and acting in a manner that does not quite suit a young adult. However, as an evolving woman, Sheila matures and becomes more independent towards the end of the play, thus reflecting some of Priestley’s ideas on social equality between genders.
When Gerald first presents Sheila with an engagement ring, she exclaims, ‘Look Mummy- isn’t it a beauty’; this statement presents her character as still childish, since she is whimsical with her mother and is still ‘half playful.’ Her character begins to evolve when she gives her own opinion about Mr Birling’s way of running his business. As she states, ‘but these girls aren’t cheap labour – they’re people.’ In 1912, women’s views were thought irrelevant in such matters, as is evident earlier in the play where ‘she (Mrs Birling) and Sheila go out’ and Mr Birling speaks alone to the men. Mr Birling also highlights ‘we business men’ in his speech, and by doing so he indicates how women do not fit in the business category; however, in her remarks on labor, Sheila is giving her own view on the matter and is actually contradicting a man’s way of running his business. This scenario reflects Priestley’s ideas on social equality of genders, as he begins to present Sheila as the woman who will lead women to the right to vote and to the same status enjoyed by men. It also shows two contrasting women, one who is dependent on her husband and parents and one who is breaking free and is becoming more independent.
We know that Sheila’s actions leading to Eva Smith’s second dis-employment were carried out because she was in ‘a furious temper’ and because the item of clothing she was trying ‘suited her (Eva Smith)’ better instead. This chain of events suggests that Sheila’s spoiled upbringing has resulted in her jealousy towards ‘pretty’ women like Eva Smith and implies that she abused her power as ‘the daughter of a good customer and also of a man well known in the town’ to sack Eva because she felt she was ‘better’ than another woman. Sheila thus reveals a childish attitude that led to serious consequences, demonstrating her negatively young character as she was not able to look ahead of her or act more maturely. However, her use of dramatic language in the statement, ‘we killed her,’ shows her definite acceptance of her guilt and collective responsibility. She becomes more independent as the play progresses as towards the end; everyone is ‘triumphant’ and ‘pleased’ with knowing that the Inspector was a fake and that perhaps a collective image is saved. Nonetheless, Sheila replies with, ‘(bitterly) I suppose we’re all good people now,’ and shows her sarcasm as she continues, ‘So nothing’s happened, so there’s nothing to be sorry for, nothing to learn.” Her words show how she has become a woman, contradicting all members of the family as she realizes that honesty and truth are more important than keeping the family name. Sheila shows how she has learned from her experience and, unlike the others who turn back to normal by ‘pretending as if nothing has happened,’ she seems to be the most mature character in the play. She is more open to change than the other characters, especially those of the older generation.
Eventually, Sheila begins to realize the difference between right and wrong. Priestley presents how Sheila has changed towards the end from a girl ‘pleased with life,’ self-centered and attractive, and how she develops a conscience and feeling of regret over her dealings with Eva Smith. Priestley’s idea of social equality of genders has also been articulated clearly as Sheila’s status has been elevated; she now stands against her parents and for herself. Her declaration that ‘I am not a child’ shows how a woman has been made of her and how Sheila is no longer below Gerald or her father in status. She is after all the only one who had developed mostly as a young girl, accepting her responsibility and reminding the members of the family of the Inspector’s message that men ‘will be taught in fire, blood and anguish’ if their actions are not changed. She reflects Priestley’s view on responsibility as she has now accepted her guilt and is now becoming like the Inspector, asking questions and getting to the bottom of the truth.
An analysis of the theme of generational gap in An inspector’s calls
There are drastic differences that are seen in people who are born in different generations. One may argue that the younger generations are more impressionable and naive while the older generations are very hardheaded and assertive. By creating characters like Sheila and Eric with a large age gap between Mr. and Mrs. Birling in the play An Inspector Calls, tension is created through their differences clashing. J.B. Priestley’s use of contrasting characterization within the Birling family in the play An Inspector Calls creates tension and communicates his theme that one must take into consideration the consequences of their actions and take responsibility for them.
The Birling’s children, Erica and Sheila, are presumed to be very naive and still listening and agreeing with their parent’s words due to their ages. Yet, thought the play both Eric and Sheila prove to be mentally mature and responsible while directly reflect the inspector’s message. Eric Birling was caught up in the complicated situation relating to the death of Eva Smith through his role in impregnating her. Although he is ashamed, he steps up to the plate and confesses his actions and even admits to the fact that “I wasn’t in love with her or anything”, yet he understands that his actions did produce consequences and he takes responsibility for them. He insists on giving her enough money to keep her going, even though it included stealing money from his father (Priestley 50). This action was done unjustly, yet it shows how determined Eric was in order to fix his mistake and take responsibility for his actions- exactly what the Inspector teaches. Sheila Birling, the sister of Eric, also starts out by admitting to her role in the death of Eva. She expresses her sorrow and regret for her actions stating how “It was my own fault… and if I could help her now, I would” right away (24-25). Even though she did not take action like Eric did, she still takes responsibility for her actions and shows that she really does care about the consequences she was unable to attend to. As the play continues and everyone finds out that inspector Goole was a fake, the parents of Sheila and Eric both start to downplay the events of that evening. Suddenly the tension starts to rise as soon as the children speak directly against their parents stating “if you must know it’s you two who are being childish” (55). Sheila is so disgusted by the actions of her parents, that her character takes an unpredictable turn and she evolves into a brave young woman annoyed enough to scold her own parents. Even Eric states directly to his parents that “well, I don’t blame you. But don’t forget i’m ashamed of you as well. Yes- both of you” (54). The characters Sheila and Eric create tension in the play through their differences regarding their view on taking responsibility that contrasts greatly with their parents. The fact that the younger generation is standing up to the older generation and doing unconventional actions like scolding them, the main theme of the novel is clearly represented.
The older generation in the Berling family consists of strong characters: unlikely to sway in their ideas easily, hard headed, and arrogant. Arthur too is confronted about his dealings with Eva Smith, but immediately states that “the girl has been causing trouble in the works. I was quite justified (19). Here, he is seemingly ok knowing that she was forced to kill herself all because of something that started out with him originally and a sign of regret is not to be found. The younger generation, prominently Sheila is verbally pointing out her contrasting viewpoint directly saying (to Mr. Berling) “I think it was a mean thing to do” (21). Tension is created as a result of her comment, but in a way she forces her father to re-examine at his actions by him hearing an opposite viewpoint and internally contemplate her and the Inspector’s message. Another situation that increases the tension overall is when Sheila hears her father describe Eva as cheap labor, and automatically she jumps in stating “but these girls aren’t cheap labour – they’re people” clearly showcasing the differences in the mindset of the two generations (19). Lastly, Mrs. Birling gets confronted with her mistake and does admit to her actions. Her arrogance shows through when she plainly lays out her thoughts to the inspector that “if you think you can bring any pressure to bear upon me, Inspector, you’re quite mistaken. Unlike the other three, I did nothing I’m ashamed of or that won’t bear investigation… You have no power to change my mind” and like Mr. Birling does not have a hint of regret in her (44). Sybil Birling is blinded to the problems within her household and herself, and therefore tension is created when she directly contradicts the viewpoints of her children. The theme of the play is brought out because of this, when the children start to argue their point about accepting responsibility for their actions’ consequences.
Through tension between the characters, the main theme that we don’t live alone, are members of one body, and are responsible for each other is revealed. Sadly for this to be revealed, tension is built greatly dividing the Birling family- the younger vs the older generation. The children desperately try to get their parents to accept what they believe is the inspector’s lesson and purpose for visiting, yet Arthur and Sybil are set on the idea that they are just “the famous younger generation who know it all. And they can’t even take a joke” (72). Although it may be true that the inspector is not real and the older generation will never learn, the main theme is being communicated successfully to the audience. By looking at Mr. and Mrs. Berling and the way they instigate an attack on themselves by their children, the audience feels disgusted by them and the theme reaches the audience.
Analyse the role and function of the Inspector in An Inspector Calls.
An Inspector Calls is a play with lots of political messages as well as social messages. J.B. Priestley believed in socialism and he used large amounts of his plays to try and convince people to his way of thinking. The Inspectors name is Goole which sounds like ‘ghoul’ meaning someone who has a morbid interest in death or a spirit. His appearance in the play is a result of the girl’s death. Goole is also a seaport town and perhaps suggests that he is going to fish for information. Both explanations could be a reason Priestly chose the name Inspector Goole, to give the reader a hint on the character itself.
The inspector, straight from his introduction, is commanding and authoritative. Upon his entrance, he creates, “…at once an impression of massiveness, solidity, and purposefulness.” The inspector continues to create this impression as he progresses through his speeches and through his in the interrogation of the family. The inspector remains confident, sturdy and composed, while people around him crumble and fall to pieces. His ‘solidity’ is proven by the fact he remains on task despite numerous attempts from Birling to digress from points he is making. The inspector is told to appear ‘purposeful’; this is shown where he explains to Birling that Birlings way of thinking “Every man must only look out for himself,” is not the case, and all warps of society are interlinked. The view is best illustrated in the Inspector’s final speech, where he says, “We don’t live alone…We are responsible for each other.” This idea that Priestley himself believed in deeply, and much of Priestley’s writing shared this very theme.
The time of this play was written helps us to understand the views and feelings expressed by Priestley. Priestley had very socialist views on the world and wanted to diminish differences in social classes – a complete contrast to the views of main characters, namely Arthur Birling. For example, the Inspector outlines the ways each of the Birlings have influenced someone from a completely different background and social class. Furthermore, the Inspector is also there to persuade the audience that the pursuit of power and riches are destructive. We should notice how much control the Inspector has over the Birling family, in their own home and how sympathetically the Inspector is presented in the writing whereas Birling is shown to be extremely foolish in his actions. This is a way of demeaning the Capitalists. Priestley has made his point subtly but clearly; this is a key role of the Inspector.
Continuing from the Inspector showing Birling the error of his ways, the Inspector is the one and the only person who makes things happen and keeps his and the overall story moving. Without the Inspector it is virtually assured that none of the secrets that were exposed would ever have come to light without the gentle nudges from the Inspector which knotted the storyline together. However, the Inspector never explicitly accused anyone of any mishap, instead, it is the characters whom, themselves fill in the missing gaps in the Inspectors story. For example, it is shown, on page 55, the Inspector and Eric discuss who it was who killed Eva Smith. To start with Eric assumes that he killed her because of the situations with the baby, but it is then suggested by the Inspector that it is, in fact, Mrs. Birling who influenced the death of Eva Smith. This is closely related to the Dunne’s Theory, which states that you can look back into the past to see how your actions lead to a situation and you can look into the future to see how this will affect people in times to come. Mrs. Birling looked back into the past to see how her actions affected the lives of a young lady and she subsequently saw that she had been responsible for shaping the life of that young girl, that is the link to Dunne’s theory.
The inspector because of his massiveness, purpose, and solidity, manages to not only outline the characters the wrongs which they have done but he also manages to connect the actions. This leads to him being more solid because not only does he have a few accusations but he can fit them into a connecting storyline in which every member of the family has a part and so no one can escape the ‘truth’. The series of events build up to the final part of Eva Smith’s life where she commits suicide as she feels there is no hope left for her.
On a symbolic level, the Inspector is perhaps not human at all; he could be some kind of ghost. This is perhaps suggested within his own name, Goole. This has obvious meaning with the word ‘Ghoul’ meaning ghost. It is also suggested by some people that the Inspector could be some kind of angel or messenger, which is trying to convince the family to mend their ways. The Inspector could be a manifestation of the ghost Eva Smith, however, this is unlikely as no one actually dies until the very end of the play, but this may be forewarning the family of the troubles to come.
Through his writing Priestley involves the reader or audience, his character’s discussions are to each other but they unintentionally involve the audience. For example, he uses the final speech of the play made by the Inspector to summarize his views. Priestley wanted this speech to make the audience listen carefully. You can see it is a speech from the way it is structured and the language used. For example, his final speech is very powerful as the points are made quickly and sharply -perfect for an audience to hear and take in. The speech goes on to talk about how we are all responsible for each other and if we don’t learn this we all “be taught in blood, fire and anguish,” which refers to war.
In conclusion, the role and function of the Inspector in an Inspector Calls is colossal. He instigates the majority of the discussion and he commands proceedings because of his solidity and convincing tone. He is essential to the play because of his air of authority and the way he speaks with complete and utter conviction. Overall I think that the inspector plays the role of God, as he knows everything and wants the other characters to confess their sins to him, without him asking them. His message is that you can’t hide your secrets as they will soon be revealed.
The role played by the characters Sheila and Eric in An inspector’s call
In the play “An Inspector Calls” by J B Priestley, the characters of Sheila and Eric are used to represent the younger generation in Edwardian England, a time when traditional Victorian values were beginning to become obsolete. Priestley uses these characters to criticize and contrast with the older Birlings, and as a result they have a large impact on the course of the lay and are both complex characters themselves.
Priestley represents Sheila as a typical upper class woman at first, yet allows her to develop into a self-sufficient and experienced woman through her experiences with the Inspector. We see in the opening stage directions that Priestley describes her character paralinguistically as “young” and “naïve” as well as “excited”. What is more, Sheila is totally subservient to her father and Gerald, and even when she does dare to be critical she is only “half-serious”. These descriptions of Sheila show her to comfortably fit in to the expected role of a daughter of a wealthy man in Edwardian; to be seen and not heard. By the end of the play however, Sheila’s stage directions are in stark contrast to the beginning; she speaks “bitterly” and even “interrupts” her male family members. She feels she is able to do this due to the moral superiority she has gained by accepting her responsibility for Eva Smith’s death, demonstrating Priestley’s own view of acceptance of guilt and learning from experience as empowerment.
Priestley then takes Sheila’s development one step further by having her take on the role of the Inspector and conduction her own ‘moral’ inspection of the Birlings. She encourages Gerald to confess his affair and even warns Mrs Birling of the consequences of lying, using the metaphor “building up a wall” which the Inspector “will break down”. This idea is furthered by another metaphor concerning the Inspector: “giving them rope so they’ll hang themselves”, again uttered by Sheila. Sheila’s self-knowledge elevates her above the other Birlings and allows her to become morally superior. This transition is epitomized when Sheila rebukes Mrs Birling, saying that now “she’s the one being childish”. The use of the word “childish” is particularly significant and ironic as Mrs Birling had called Sheila a “child” repeatedly at the start of the play. This turning of the tables dramatically highlights Sheila’s growth and the importance of self-knowledge, a major theme throughout the play.
Eric is initially used by Priestley to probe beneath the surface of the Birling family façade and hint at the secrets which will be revealed later. Eric foreshadows Sheila’s tantrum at Milwards by warning Gerald of her “temper”. He suggests that there is something more to Sheila’s character than the “naïve” girl initially presented. Furthermore, Eric questions his father’s opinions and political statements. During Birling’s dinner speech, Eric prompts him with the question “what about war?” which leads Birling into his anti-socialist rant about “cranks”. This is ironic as the Inspector arrives immediately after the speech and Eric later points out that “one of those cranks turned up”. In addition, Eric’s question of war prompts Birling to make some predictions about the future in which he dismisses the possibility of war as “nonsense”. The dramatic irony would have been particularly effective for a 1946 audience (when the play was first staged), having just survived two World Wars, and would have highlighted Birling’s distinct lack of foresight and understanding, and demonstrating that Eric had unearthed some of the key flaws in the Birling family.
Priestley also uses Eric’s character to bring Eva’s tale of degradation to its climactic finale. By using proleptic irony, Priestley skews the chronology of Eva’s story to allow Mrs Birling to condemn the father of Eva’s child only for it to be later revealed that it was Eric all along. This use of proleptic irony creates great tension for the audience and amongst the characters of Eric and Mrs Birling, with Eric saying she “hasn’t made it any easier for him”. Additionally, through Eric’s experiences with Eva, he has gained a slight moral education thanks to contact with the working class. This newfound moral fibre allows him to, like Sheila, accept his responsibility and learn from his experiences. He says that he is “not likely to forget”, showing that the Inspector has succeeded in his attempts to encourage self-knowledge and communal awareness in Eric.
In conclusion, Priestley uses the characters of Eric and Sheila to highlight the importance of learning from experience, the key theme in “An Inspector Calls”. He uses them in contrast with Mr and Mrs Birling which is clearly shown by Eric and Sheila’s use of affirmatives like “Yes, “I am to blame” and “he’s right, whereas the Birlings frequently use negatives such as “no”, “I’m not” and “I don’t. Both Eric and Sheila learn to challenge their parents’ philosophies, as Eric tells his father “it’s not a free country if you can’t go anywhere else”, and Sheila compels her mother to accept her guilt, accusing her of “not understanding”. They are used by Priestley to preach his message of the importance of the younger generation and socialistic progress and highlight the irrelevance and injustice of class tradition.