In this essay I am going to be exploring the function of the inspector in the play "An Inspector Calls". I am going to be looking at his role in the play and look at how he effects other characters in the play. When looking at his effect on the other characters in the play I am going to look at the characters personality's and attitudes before the inspector arrives and then review this once the inspector has confronted them with there wrongdoings to find out if they have changed and, if so, how. I am also going to be looking at weather the inspector is supposed to be a real person or something else.
The inspector creates the impression that he is intimidating, particularly to Mr Birling, who seems to like to be in control of everything, this situation seems to make him agitated and anxious because he is not used to having someone try to challenge his authority. The inspector seems to cut Mr Birling off mid sentence on more then one occasion which agitates him even more. An example of this is when Mr Birling says "we shall be along in a minute now. Just finishing" talking to Sheila who had entered the room upon the inspection, to which the inspector responds "I'm afraid not". The Inspector seems to have an effect on each of the individual characters and either makes the audience respect them more or causes the audience to take a strong dislike to the character in question. The inspector brings things to light that the rest of the family wouldn't have otherwise known and the individuals involved would have just buried and forgotten, for example how Gerald was having an affair with Daisy Renton when he was engaged to Sheila.
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At the beginning of the play Mr Birling is very arrogant and behaves as if he believes he is better and more important then everybody else even though he isn't. This is shown when he says "I was an alderman for years- and lord mayor two years ago". He is trying to impress and possibly scare the inspector with his local standing and influential friends. Part of the inspectors role in the play is to correct this and but Mr Birling back into his place. The dislike for Mr Birling continues throughout the play especially when he says "and then she got herself into trouble there, I suppose?" He says this in act 1 after being told that he started the chain of events that caused Daisy Renton to commit suicide. This shows the audience that Mr Birling is spiteful and looking for someone to blaim. Mr Birling seems a very self righteous man and is very proud of the fact that he is likely to be receiving a knighthood. He is optimistic for the future of his family and his business and is sure that there is not going to be a war, because the audience already knows that there is going to be a war we begin to doubt Mr Birlings judgement. The audience may begin to think that because he is wrong about the war he may be wrong about other things too. To show this Priestly uses dramatic irony which is seen when Mr Birling says "The Germans don't want war" This is used to show the audience that Mr Birling is naÃ¯ve. As the inspectors investigation gets deeper and deeper Mr Birling selfishness gets the better of him and he begins to start planing how to cover up the story. He is very worried about how the press will present the story in Act 2. He wants to hide the fact that Eric stole money which is shown when he says "I've got to cover this up as soon as I can." At the end of the the play he knows he has probably lost his high status if word of the inspection gets out and this is all he seems to care about.
In the beginning Geralds character is seen as being very anxious to fit in with the family he is marrying into. He shows this by agreeing with almost all the comments made by Mr Birling because he is head of the family. Although initially there is a sense of a close relationship between Gerald and Sheila this initial impression is soon destroyed when it is revealed Gerald had an affair with Daisy Renton. This is when Gerald and Sheila reveal they are having problems as a couple and are not perfect together as they would like everyone to think and although Gerald has cheated and lied the audience end up feeling sorry for him because he feels very remorseful and ashamed at what he did and also because he seemed to actually care for Daisy Renton and didn't just use her. The inspector manages to break gerald down and destroy his era of arrogance and fake confidence so he can reveal a softer more caring man.
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Sheila is portrayed as being quite young and immature. She is shown as being quite close to her parents in the first act and she uses words such as "mummy" and "daddy" which reflects there social status in the family and adds an air of a close, perfect family, which seems to be an act to impress Gerald. This initial impression of Sheila however is is proved false as soon as the inspector comes into the picture. As soon as Sheila realises why this inspector is there she switches from being a nice, innocent, good girl to being more serious. We can see that she is panicking when she laughs hysterically and turns to Gerald and says "why you fool- he knows". This show that she alone is starting to pick up on the inspectors deep incite into there lives and into the life of Daisy Renton. This also shows that she is mature and very remorseful about the incident that has caused her involvement and the impact it made on Eva Smith's (Daisy Renton's) Life. This makes the audience respect her more despite the fact that it is partly her fault that a girl is dead. The inspectors affect on Sheila is that he actually brings out her true character and also makes her more nervous and suspicious of the people around her.
In the beginning Mrs Birling seems like quite a quiet person who keeps herself to herself and seems to come across as the perfect housewife who only lives to please her husband. We know this when she says to Sheila "When your married you'll realise that men with important work to do sometimes have to spend nearly all there time and energy on their business. You'll have to get used to that, just as I had to". This shows that she has admiration for her husband but resents that his business keeps him away from her. However, when her true character is shown she is very different to our initial impression of her, she is quite a mean and spiteful character. This is seen when the inspector turns to her and starts to ask questions as to her involvement with Daisy Renton when she says "in spite of whats happened to the girl since, I consider I did my duty." This is when her true self shows through the mascaraed of being the perfect housewife and the result of being married to Mr Birling who is arrogant and does not care for anyone but himself.
At first (Act 1) we see Eric as quite an unimportant character and the audience doesn't really see much of him except for the odd outburst. One of the first things we hear about Eric is when Sheila describes him as being "Squiffy". However when the name Eva Smith is mentioned he gets quite agitated and jumpy. At the time the audience assumes this is due to him being tired and having too much to drink but but over time the audience starts to suspect that his jumpiness is actually something to do with his involvement with the death of Eva Smith. This is almost confirmed when he says "Look here, i've had enough of this," and then says "I think I had better turn in". The audience is still not quite sure at this point if this is because he is nervous about being the next in line to be questioned or he has actually had too much to drink. However after what is revealed in act 3, the fact that he drinks and got Eva Smith pregnant, not only are the audiences suspicions confirmed but we also start to feel sympathetic towards him because he was only trying to help and tried best to mend his mistake but unfortunately the outcome of the mistake was impossible to mend. The inspector helps him to bring out the mature and responsible side of him which shows that he is actually a lot more mature then his parents and not bothered with petty social classes which is shown when he says "Oh- for Gods sake! What does it matter now whether they give you a knighthood or not?" which shows he is more mature then his Farther.
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When we look at the inspectors role in the play we see that his purpose is to deliver the moral of the play which changes the characters personality's, so his intentions were to change the characters and make them better people whilst trying to put across a moral message to the audience. By the end of the play the audience is left wondering if the inspector is supposed to represent a real person or some sort of supernatural being sent to warn them of what could be coming and teach them a moral lesson. We are also left wondering if the inspector is just a figure of there imagination or a projection of there conscience. This idea is verified even more when the final phone call happens and Mr Birling announces "That was the police, A girl has just died- on her way to the infirmary- after swallowing some disinfectant. And a police officer is on his way here- to ask some - questions" This makes us question weather the inspector was actually real.
In conclusion, the inspector played a big part in the characters lives and changed them, possibly forever, and that he carried many moral messages to the audience. An example of this is that carless actions can have a detrimental effect on other peoples lives. For-instance, Sheila got Eva sacked from her job because she was in a bad mood which had a big impact on Eva's life and was the beginning of Eva's life falling apart.
By Adam Bradley