The Function and Symbolism of the Inspector in J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls
In Â“An Inspector CallsÂ” by J.B. Priestley the Inspector is used as a
voice of conscience and morality. The Inspector does this while
interrogating a very prosperous and upper-middle class family who
believe themselves to be above all.
The dramatic impact that Priestley uses shows the importance, validity
and presence of the inspector. Priestley uses effects such as changing
the lighting Â“The lighting should be pink and intimate until the
inspector arrives, and then it should be brighter and harderÂ” in the
stage directions. This is to show the change of tone when the
inspector arrives, from joyous and loving to earnest and grave. This
lighting change also symbolises truth and Â‘the harsh light of
realityÂ’. His body language is very confronting and serious. Â“Has a
disconcerting habit of looking at the person he addresses before
actually speakingÂ” This shows the Birlings that he is not playing
games and is making sure they know why he is there. The inspector is
omniscient; he knows everything, although he is still questioning
them. He keeps control of the situation so he can keep track of whatÂ’s
going on and whatÂ’s being said: Â“One line of enquiry at a timeÂ”. This
shows that he is in control and Eric and GeraldÂ’s reaction show they
are not used to being controlled.
The inspector treats the Birling family with a slight disrespect,
unlike what was expected of him at the time the play was set. He
treats the Birling family with assertiveness. He questions most of
their actions against their wishes, such as Â“Birling: I refused, of
course. Inspector: Why?Â” He threatens Mr BirlingÂ’s dominance and
complacency. He also challenges his political views and ideology. This
shows that The Inspector has no respect towards Mr. Birling.
At the beginning of the play, Sheila is very innocent. She is the
little girl of her family and she is sheltered by her parents. The
Inspector knows how to manipulate her. The Inspector unsettles Sheila
through his use of powerful, emotive language. The Inspector
challenges her morality, making her feel Â“terribly guiltyÂ”, knowing
that she could have more influence over her father than he ever could.
At the end of the play, Sheila has gone from naÃ¯ve and innocent to
more mature and more established.
The Inspector also exposes GeraldÂ’s cheating and lies. This could be a
comment on J.B. PriestleyÂ’s views of marriage. It shows that people
should be judged on their morals and principles and ethics rather than
their social status. In general, The Inspector exposes the blemishes
in the BirlingÂ’s lives. The Inspector is successful in what he does.
The BirlingÂ’s can therefore be shown to represent the upper/higher
classes and their imperfections and flaws are being...