An Inspector Calls was written by J.B. Priestley after the Second World War. It is set in the spring of 1912 at the Brumley home of the Birlings, a prosperous industrial family in the North Midlands.
When the Inspector Goole first enters the scene, Mr. Birling is giving some ‘good advice’, as he calls it, “A man has to make his own way – has to look after himself…The way some of these cranks talk and write now, you’d think everybody has look after everybody else, as if we’re all mixed up together”. Collectively, the Birlings had been celebrating, rather decadently, a celebration of Gerald and Sheila’s engagement and Mr. Birling had also been talking about there being a good chance that he will be in the next honours list.
There is also an interesting point when Mr. Birling talks openly of Gerald and Sheila’s social divide, “Your mother…feels you might have done better for yourself socially [than Sheila]”. This shows that the Birlings and the Crofts, both rich families, opinion that social class is everything and cannot be overlooked. Overall, the evening is almost entirely focused on society itself and how to ‘properly’ act in it.
When the Inspector comes in, his manner is completely different and, as we find out later in the play, his opinion of society too.He is reserved, inquisitive and not afraid to ask impertinent questions to those who may be of higher social ‘standing’ than himself. Even more significance is shown later on in the play when the characters of Mr. Birling and that of the Inspector are found to be polar opposites.
The set for "An Inspector Calls"
Source: Wiki Commons
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In his notes J.B. Priestley describes Inspector Goole as “a big man” but “creates an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness.” (p.11). The stage directions repeatedly show him “cutting through, massively” (p.12), “massively taking charge” (p. 28), “with authority” (p. 34), “cutting in, sharply” (p. 45). The director should take advantage of these stage directions and use them to make him seem larger than life and in full control of the situation in order to mimic the “character” of Inspector Goole,
Goole behaves like a police inspector in that he remains in control, he dominates the other characters including Mr. and Mrs. Birling, who are used to dominating others and being obeyed: “(As Birling tries to protest, turns on him) Don’t stammer and yammer at me again, man. I’m losing all my patience with you people” He has no respect for them and this comes as a shock to the Birlings who are very highly respected throughout society, Mr. Birlings only reply being, “what did he say?”, after this outburst Mrs. Birling is “rather cowed.” Aside from a few uncontrolled outbursts, Goole is constantly calm and unruffled and speaks “firmly” (p.51) and “imperturbably” (p.31).
Goole is unusual and intriguing, however, in that he makes his close, personal feelings known to the Birlings. He represents Priestley’s moral view, the moral dimension of allowing others to see they can find forgiveness though future good behavior makes him different from a normal police inspector because he is more concerned with morality rather than legality. Furthermore he is outraged and disgusted about what has been done to Eva Smith and he lets the Birlings know this throughout the play, “She died in misery and agony hating life” (p28). His language is sometimes blunt, deliberately harsh and he defies Birlings attempts to rebuke him. Goole reminds Mr. Birling that he has responsibilities, “Public men, Mr. Birling, have responsibilities as well as privileges” (p.41), this shows Goole’s feelings towards the upper class which we learn a lot more about further on in the play. Goole is also unintimidated when Mr. Birling tries to worry...
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