The Dramatic Importance of the Inspector in J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls
In this play, Inspector Calls J.B. Priestley expresses his personal
viewpoint on society in general throughout the play by using the
character Inspector Goole. His viewpoint is evident in the main themes
through out the play which are social responsibility, power and lies.
These themes help to articulate his belief that all people share a
common humanity and so all are part of a community whereby everyone
should help each other, regardless class.
Social responsibility is possibly the most prominent theme through the
play and is explored a number of times. Priestley shows how lack of
social responsibility can cause a ‘chain of events’ which will lead to
something rather more severe. One example of this lack of
responsibility is when Mr Birling tells Eva Smith to ‘clear out’. He
doesn’t consider what would happen to her if she had no money. He just
saw her as a potential business threat she was one of the ‘four or
five ringer leaders’ who demanded higher wages. Mr Birling feels no
social responsibility for the welfare of his workers; he just wants to
make as much profit as possible.
Power is another theme that plays an important role in the play.
Priestley illustrates how the immoral use of power can once again have
severe consequences. He shows how the middle and upper class had great
authority over the working class who were often in desperate need of
money. The perfect example of this is when Sheila used her social
standing to have Eva Smith sacked from Milwards. Sheila blackmailed
the manager by saying ‘If they didn’t get rid of that girl I’d never
go to that place again and I’d persuade mother to close her account.
The manager was left with almost no choice but to sack Eva Smith
although you could say he showed a lack of responsibility by sacking
her as well. The main point is that Sheila neglected her power in
terms of status and used it to cause harm to a person she felt jealous
The play is set in 1912 yet it was first performed in 1946. Dramatic
irony plays a key part in the play in terms of entertaining the
audience. The dates are vital in order for Priestley to make this
dramatic irony work.
In one of Mr Birling's monologue in Act 1 we see why the dates are so
important. During the course of his long winded speech Mr Birling
makes three statements all of which he wrongly foretells and this
helps us build up an image of a pompous and slightly foolish man. The
first is when he predicts peace and prosperity explaining ‘there isn’t
a chance of war’. This is the first instance of dramatic irony as the
audience know full well that two years later the 1st World War began.
The second is when he describes the Titanic as ‘unsinkable, absolutely
unsinkable’ and the audience know that the...