About Robert Johnson

English teacher since 1997. Worked in High Schools in Yorkshire till 2005. From 2012 have worked in FE establishments. From January 2015, worked in Adult workplace training delivering Funky Skills Maths and English.

An Inspector Calls – A Revision Booklet

An Inspector Calls – A Revision Booklet

Characters

Arthur Birling

Eric Birling

Mrs. Birling

Gerald Croft

Eva Smith

Inspector Goole

Plus other, lesser important characters in the plot!

Plot

  1. In the home of a wealthy employer in 1921, a visit from a mysterious Police Inspector happens
  2. He asks a series of questions to all present at a dinner party
  3. Each knew the young lady who died, by suicide
  4. Each had some part to play in her descent to poverty and death
  5. The Inspector, called Goole (same pronunciation as Ghoul) shows them each up, in turn, for the way they harshly treated Eva Smith, the victim.
  6. 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
  7. 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!
  8. The audience/reader then wonders who this Inspector is.
  9. It is a mystery, a whodunnit, a ghost story and a play all rolled into one!
  10. But it does have links to other works of fiction
  11. Agatha Christie – Orient Express story (all twelve characters have a hand in killing their victim)
  12. In the end, the audience is asking who, or what, was Inspector Goole?

Analysis – Characters

Arthur Birling

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

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 Birling

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

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 Croft

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.

Characterization

 Birling Sr.          
 Birling Jr.          
 Gerald Croft          
 Sheila Birling        
 Eric Birling          
 Mrs. Birling          
 Inspector Goole          
Write between 3 and seven words, to describe each character.

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!

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!

Which One Do You Do?

Do you write like you speak, or do you speak like you write?

I can see hundreds of students all going “Huh!” right about now. But I ask this question for one inescapable reason and if you pay note to what comes next, then you will improve your grades no end.

If you write like you speak, then that means you automatically use something we call brevity which means you shorten things down a lot. An example would be as below:

Just been down to the shops to buy petrol.

Is there anything wrong with that sentence?

It makes perfect sense. It is spelt correctly. It conveys real meaning and therefore, is an accurate use of the English language. But the answer, of course, is yes, there is something wrong, because there are some important words missing.

You meant to write:

I have just been down to the shops to buy some petrol for the car.

When we use a laptop, or an iMac, or when we use our phones and we are on things like social media, we shorten things down all of the time. It is normal. There is nothing wrong with that, at all. But we can fall into the trap when we are writing, of doing the same and when it is a note to a friend, that is not a problem at all, to anyone.

But when it has to be something formal, like a letter for a job, or an examination paper, where we are being assessed on our use of correct spelling, punctuation and grammar, or SPAG, as you will have seen by now, it is an issue.

I see paper after paper, or answer after answer, that uses brevity disguised as correct Standard English, all of the time. I even do it myself from time to time and then see it and think horrible things about myself, for falling for it yet again.

So, what must we do?

If you are having an assessment to do, of possibly 2,000 words, then by all means, write it out in the way you would normally, but then, very slowly, go through it, using a reader software that you can download sometimes, for free, so you can ‘hear’ the words and the sentences. Your eyes never see the error but your ears, they are perfect (assuming you are not hearing impaired, of course) and you will notice the mistakes, so you can then make the necessary changes.

Be very careful, therefore, not to fall into this trap, when writing something formally, for it can make a very good 65 grade go below a 58 grade in one fell swoop, when you use too much brevity.

That is how important written Standard English use is, especially when being assessed formally.

RJ

The Portal

You will see that there has been a name change. This is in line with a new venture in these Covid infested times, where I intend to create and provide a free to use, free to access, portal for Mums and Dads to get the work for their children if they are forced away from school. It will gather lessons from teachers of all year groups, to gather them together, so should have a year tab to hit, then a subject and one for lesson, given that some schools teach multiple subjects, especially in the Primary sector.

I have written to the UK Prime Minister, to ask him for funding to undertake this venture, using the government website, or one that can be set up, so all you would need to do is register for an account, log in and then download all the lessons and resources needed, ready for printing.

I am expecting him to say no, due to there not being funds for this, so before someone else steals my idea, I am writing it down here. GCSEEnglishteacher still exists, in this guise, but the banner at the top now reflects the title of the new venture, which is to be called THE PORTAL.

Keep watching in these troubled times and I hope that you are keeping well.

Robert Johnson
CEO/MD Premier Education
October 2020

The Road That Should Be Taken

In honour of Robert Frost and Paul Herron, and written after one pal decided to wander off down a road when we three friends went the other.

The biker sat on the hill side, thinking of his future
He pondered the twisted route that he would now take.
And as he sat there, thinking of the delights ahead
He thought of the destination, the glittering lake.

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He thought to himself, now should be a good time to go
Upon this, one of life’s great adventures to master.
And as he pulled the throttle back, he saw the road
Fall and appear before him, daring him to go faster.

He thought of all of those less fortunate than he;
Those for whom this sight would never please,
And chuckled to himself as he continued to ride,
A faint, but growing laughter that would not cease.

For he knew the truth of it all, the one, undeniable fact
That there would be others who he could only call
‘The ones who travelled a road that he would not take;’
The ones whose names were not Chris, but Paul.

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Writing Rules

The last time I taught was a few weeks ago. I started a job not knowing I had broken my foot when I dropped my motorbike on the thing, the day before I started, so in time, I had to stop the job, but in the last lesson, something happened. I asked the A Level students I was teaching to write something for me and to write it properly. They all looked at me slightly quizzically. I hinted at the two rules for writing in such a way that I knew they would be confused. I then had to tell them the difference between typing and hand writing, for exam purposes. You are, after all, chasing points in an exam.

The exam you are taking has something called a “mark scheme,” which the marker has to use to mark your exam scripts. It will say that to get so many marks, which is an A*, you have to do this and that, but it will specify one thing entirely and if the marker does not see it in your writing, then he or she has to mark you DOWN. It is called SPAG in GCSE English and also A Level GCE. Spelling, Punctuation And Grammar. But the thing it then specifies is that in GCSE, to get a C, your hand written work has to be paragraphed properly, in most of the cases. Most allows the marker to allow the odd error.

In other words, the first word has to start on the red line, or black line at the left. Then, when you start the next paragraph, when hand writing, there should be no line missed. You are not typing the answer after all and pressing ENTER once or twice, depending on the word processor you are normally using. For those who are typing an answer because of Special Needs provision, then go ahead and use ENTER as normal.

Otherwise, it should, when hand written, look like any good novel, so here is an example. It is written by Jane Austen. It is the opening to her book called Emma.

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Note the beginning of the second paragraph. Yes, this is typed because it is in a book, but her manuscript went to the publisher as a hand written text and would have been exactly the same. Keep that in mind. Note how and where the second paragraph actually starts. No missed lines. Just the next line down and a small indent, the width of your pinky [little] finger.

Now notice the next paragraph break…

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Yet again, no missing line and just an indent.

That is how you do it. If you, like so many students I have taught, say to your tutor, “I don’t give a damn about doing it like that,” as has been said to me in my last job, then my response is the one I gave to this young lady. My reply was forthcoming, short and swift.

“Don’t expect anything higher than a D then!”

Ask yourself what grade you want. Then write clearly and properly – a new paragraph is started when there is a new subject or a movement in time. It also has to be started in the right place.

You have been warned!

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Unsuspecting Populations

Chances are that one day soon, we shall all be wickedly wiped out
Of our life on this earth by a single, deadly, disturbing virus.
Rationale and logic dictates that this will always be the case;
Of that, we can be certain, as certain as God’s love for us.
No one will be safe. Everyone will be at risk. Those who are left
Alone on this earth will be the fortunate few who are immune;
Virtually indestructible because their blood will be the purest
In every way, able to withstand the hazards and commune
Regally with the thing that destroys the rest of humanity.
Unsuspecting populations will be demolished from this earth;
Showing us all just how tragic and fleeting all life is [really].

Analysis

Today’s piece is not going to have a lengthy analysis, but I ask a simple question. How long does it take you to realise what sort of poem this is? Can you name the type of poem? If you cannot, then you need to learn some more technical terms.

Task

Now try to analyse it, looking at how the writer has used language and structure, the two things that Language papers tend to question you on.

The Heart Beat

The Heart Beat
Robert Johnson

The practiced, perfect percussion of a heartbeat
Is the one thing in our life that keeps us all going,
From the day to day things of our troublesome lives
To the harder things to which we are also striving.

That regular, robust, percussion filled heart beat
Keeps us all well on the straight and the narrow;
Helping us to sense the emotional aspects we feel
In a life that is usually filled with all forms of sorrow.

But that punctual heart beat can also miss a beat,
When something so subtly shocking comes on by;
Those times in life when all we can do is question
The truest and real nature of why we even try.

But that self same heart beat can surprise us,
In ways that sometimes seem all too unspeakable;
When what we believe about those we know
Is challenged and we act on the unthinkable.

That same heart, it beats to a regular, robust, rhythm
Of a life that is led that needs to be filled with love.
But sometimes, we find that this simply cannot be
As we walk through the pain of the push and shove.

So as we walk along this pathway of this life,
Let us think more about those people who we meet.
Let us be kinder, more generous to all that we see
And more caring for all those people we greet

For this emotive life is blessed, if we would let it be so.
For life is a blessing that we have the privilege to share.
So why not be more thoughtful of others who share
This wonderful experience for which we all care.