Inspector Google’s Entrance: a Critique

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

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”.

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