The Role of the Inspector in 'An Inspector Calls'
An Inspector Calls is a play with many social and political messages. J. B. Priestley believed a great deal in socialism and he used several of his plays to try and influence people to be Socialist as well. It was written in a time when Britain was ruled by a Labour government and socialist policies were seen as the way forward. It was a popular way of thinking at that time so Priestley's aim for the play was probably to teach the unconvinced.
The Inspector in J. B. Priestley's 'An Inspector Calls' is one of the most thought-provoking and mysterious characters that modern day literature has yet produced. It is this mysterious element that contributes greatly to making him a very interesting character and one that may be perceived in many ways. The audience does not find a great deal out about the Inspector and nothing is explicitly told to us; we are given hints and clues from the way he acts and what he says and are forced to piece these together to form our own ideas about his identity and his intentions. In this way, Priestley has asked his audience to act as a judge and to reach personal conclusions about him.
The role of the Inspector is one of many levels. In terms of how he is used in the basic structure of the play, he is there to move the play along in that he encourages the characters to tell their stories. If there was not the revelation that he was not a real Police Inspector, he would only be considered as a narrator and not play a big part in the play. Because it transpired that he was an impostor of sorts, further questions are asked by the audience and different insights have become likely and it is clear that the Inspector is in the play for many reasons.
The play is set in the house of the Birling family. As soon as the curtains open, it is clear that the family is wealthy because there is high quality furniture and decoration in the house in which the play is set. The family use their house as a status symbol and have decorated it in a way so as to reflect their wealth. We learn this from the 'few imposing but tasteless pictures' which will probably have been chosen because they were expensive, not because they were liked. These pictures also tell us that the Birlings are proud of their wealth and think themselves to be very important but lack the good taste which is present in those who are socially superior to them. The house is described as being 'substantial and comfortable and old-fashioned, but not cosy and homelike.' This setting suggests that the family are uncomfortable with each other and therefore suggests problems. They speak to each other in a fairly relaxed manner, despite the attempts from Mrs. Birling to enforce a more formal atmosphere by correcting her family whenever they make minor errors in table manners. The champagne shows that family are joined to celebrate. Gerald is a guest at the house and so the family are all well-behaved and pleasant to one...