Inspector Goole – An Inspector Calls

An Inspector Calls

A student asked me recently about the JB Priestley play and how to answer the questions, in the exams, should Y11 do the exams because of Covid, so I emailed him back and said that if you first write it out, as planned, but without any quotes, as if you were just talking about the play, then it would like this, below.

I then asked him to do the task at the bottom.

I wonder, can you do the task at the bottom? Have a go and see.

Q17. What do you think is the importance of Inspector Goole and how does Priestley present him?

An Inspector Calls, by JB Priestley, is a play which acts as a social criticism of the time the story is set. At a time when there was no NHS and no benefits or welfare system to really talk about, in comparison to today, the play shows the differences between the rich and the poor and the brute and the gentleman and tells the story of Eva Smith, her downfall, followed by her rising and then, how society treats those who are less unfortunate than others. 

It does so via the intervention of the mysterious Inspector Goole, who comes to the Birling home, investigating a murder. As the Inspector conducts his questioning, it is clear that this officer of the law seems to know a lot more about each character before they even speak than they would care to share and it is the role of the Inspector, to bring forth the light from the darkness, the truth from the hidden lies and deceit. 

He does this with each character in turn, turning them inside out and revealing their true nature. For example, the senior Birling male of the family, the father, shows himself to be ignorant, obstinate and cruel, when he has to admit that Eva Smith used to work for him but he treated her harshly. His son shows himself up to be the sort of man who cares not for the welfare of those below him in society as well and Mrs Birling shows herself to be mean spirited, contemptible and uncaring of the poor on many occasions, especially with the time she comes face to face with Eva Smith.

Inspector Goole, whose name alone is interesting, because it reminds the reader, or audience of the other spelling of the word, (ghoul, or ghost) shows them all up for the mean spirited lot that they are, all apart from Gerald, who helps Eva and tries to rescue her from a future of homelessness in her near future.

The role of Inspector Goole therefore, is an important one because he acts as the conduit for truth and honesty to a family that is beset by greed, selfishness and contempt for anyone below them. Inspector Goole becomes the one true way the audience are shown the truth from every character’s perspective and is akin to another famous detective, created by Agatha Christie, who solves a similar murder on a train journey on the Orient Express. He is a type of character, therefore, used by writers to make the truth known to all present in the theatre, and is almost a narrator in the events surrounding Eva Smith.

At the end of the play, when Goole leaves the premises and the family find out that the Police are on their way, they are all led to wonder who this mysterious Inspector actually is.

There are several theories believed by many and they all depend on your own background, as a reader, or audience member. Some believe that anyone who knows everything about a man or woman, from the inside out, has to be divine, or in other words, Godly. This could infer an angelic being of some sorts. This could also mean all manner of things. Then there are those who see his surname and jump to the conclusion that being a Goole, he is more akin to a ghoul, so they make him into a phantom, or spectre, or ghost!

Whichever it is, and each reader or audience member has their own unique response to the text, in any age, so it is a valid one based on their reading, knows one thing is certain. The role of Inspector Goole in this play is vital for its success. 

Note: This is how I would write it without quotes. Now try to think of suitable quotes to add in, based on each point made. Remember. Point, Evidence, Explain, Develop!