An Inspector Calls – A Revision Booklet
Plus other, lesser important characters in the plot!
- In the home of a wealthy employer in 1921, a visit from a mysterious Police Inspector happens
- He asks a series of questions to all present at a dinner party
- Each knew the young lady who died, by suicide
- Each had some part to play in her descent to poverty and death
- The Inspector, called Goole (same pronunciation as Ghoul) shows them each up, in turn, for the way they harshly treated Eva Smith, the victim.
- Just before the end, the guests realise they have a fake on their hands! They check the local Infirmary/hospital and there’s been no suicides so they think they’re all safe
- Then they get a call from the real Police, asking if they know someone called Eva Smith! She has just died, so this makes them scared!
- The audience/reader then wonders who this Inspector is.
- It is a mystery, a whodunnit, a ghost story and a play all rolled into one!
- But it does have links to other works of fiction
- Agatha Christie – Orient Express story (all twelve characters have a hand in killing their victim)
- In the end, the audience is asking who, or what, was Inspector Goole?
Analysis – Characters
Mr. Birling is a crude and insensitive man! The local employer, rich and ruthless, he is the boss, in every way! He is bombastic, rude and without mercy for anyone of lower class than he is. He is horrible to his workers and treats them harshly.
He is a Capitalist in every sense of the word, wants to get all the money and keep all the money and woe betides if anyone lower class tries to stop him!
He is the sort of man who Priestley uses, to make a point, or to make a “social comment” about. Such things are usually a criticism of the times we live in. So, if a story was written about how a country left the EU and its inhabitants all starved to death, the writer would be making a social comment about leaving the EU. BREXIT etc! That’s what writers do!
Mrs. Birling is married to Mr. Birling and is just as ruthless with the lower classes! Her attitude is sometimes, the hardest to read about, especially how she treats a penniless Eva Smith.
Sheila is young, the daughter of the older Birlings and is naive when she wants to be, but can be assertive and insightful at the same time! She represents modernity, or the modern woman of the time, who wants to live outside the stuffy rules her father and mother are imposing!
Eric Birling is the drunken fool of a son to Arthur Birling! He’s a man who has an affair with Eva Smith and he only seems to care about it after his wicked ways have been brought out into the open by Inspector Goole.
Gerald is a confident man! He is honest, but like most men, he can become evasive, not wanting to take the blame for anything or anyone if he need not do it!
He helps Eva Smith and represents the sort of man who would help someone when they are down. His nature is more like the gentleman that he should be, rather than the opposite in Mr. Birling, who assumes he’s a gentleman, when he is anything else but!
Inspector Goole (Ghoul)
The mysterious, imposing and prophetic inspector is the conduit for all the hidden truths about the Birling family and their friends to be brought out into the light of day!
He is secretive and mysterious, bringing ideas into the mind of the reader/audience as they watch or read. Most audience members or readers assume he is a spectre, a ghost, or some form of angelic being, or God-like person, because he knows everything about every person at that dinner party!
He brings a sense of morality to this play because he expresses the hidden truths about everyone and lays them before everyone else, until they think they have figured out the Confidence Trickster and before he mysteriously vanishes at the end of the play!
A Typical Question
How would you answer that question? Here is an answer from the BBC Bitesize page!
How to analyse the quotation
Remember: POINT, EVIDENCE, EXPLAIN, DEVELOP!
Inspector Goole says to the assembled party, “But just remember this. One Eva Smith has gone – but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, and what we think and say and do. We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. Good night.”
This suggests that…….
This could also infer that…..
This shows that the point he is making is a valid one, because……. (you complete these sentences now)
Then, he says, “there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us,” showing the writer’s use of stylistic devices such as the repetition of “millions” emphasising his point that Eva is representative of many others.
When he says that, “their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives,” he uses emotive words to help us empathise with the victims like Eva Smith in the society which we live in. Because we are not alone, in our struggles, he is saying that we should help each other more.
Inspector Goole is the man who reminds all the other characters that, “we don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other” which is the use of three short sentences that have enormous impact and sum up his point very simply and clearly.
The use of words like, “fire and blood and anguish” by Priestley, are almost biblical, bringing a terrifying image to the mind of the reader. Unlike Mr Birling, Inspector Goole’s predictions are correct because Britain experiences two world wars. This makes him a more trustworthy character and also because he emphasises Priestley’s views.
Therefore, the Inspector’s use of language in Act 3 is very effective in getting his message across to the Birlings and the audience.
First he uses repetition ‘there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us’. This emphasises how many of these people there are in the world, that this was not just an isolated case. He then uses a number of emotive words ‘their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives’ and this again makes the audience sympathise with those less fortunate than themselves.
He uses short sentences to summarise his point ‘We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other’. The language he uses here is very plain, the short sentence sums up the idea that we are all responsible for one another, a message that Priestley wished to convey in this play.
Finally, he uses terrifying imagery, he talks about ‘fire and blood and anguish’. This is a Biblical picture of hell, of what the world will become if we don’t do as the Inspector says. All these language devices help to make his point effectively and are particularly powerful as this is the final speech by the Inspector.
Task: Make notes inside the boxes above, adding single words to describe each character, using the GCSE Bitesize information, as well as the information you can find elsewhere!