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The Role And Function Of Inspector Goole English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 899 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Analyse the role and function of Inspector Goole in “An Inspector Calls.” An Inspector Calls is a parable that was set in la belle époque meaning the beautiful period, lasting from 1870-1914, where we saw a family at a dinner party with a mysterious twist when an inspector comes to visit. It is a morality play with many social and political messages, as Priestley believed a great deal in socialism, and in many of his other plays he tried to influence others to have similar views to him. The play was set in 1912, which is just before the First World War which affected the Birlings, who were nouveau riche and were very upper class and near the top of the hierarchy. They were untouched by the economic climate that lead up to the Second World War and instead, continued with their upper class rules and carried on with life as normal.

The play is set out in a chronological order which makes it simple and easy to follow. It captures the audience’s attentions, and it feels more realistic as if it’s taking place in real life. It also helps to build dramatic tension by giving the audience a piece of information at a time.

Inspector Goole plays the main role in the play and is very cunning and clever in the ways that he questions the family and their stories rhetorically. His manner around them is very cool, calm & collected, and it often he appears to merge into the background. He is a very mysterious character, as all the other characters have a meaning, and the play is a morality play, he might symbolise a ghoul as he turns up when least expected and appears out of nowhere, almost like a ghost.

When he enters the room of the Birling’s house, the stage directions says the lighting changes to become brighter and harder. This reflects the interrogation which is about to commence.

He conducts his enquiry very systematically as he deals with one person at a time. By getting all the information out of the suspect, he confronts them with a piece of information which will make them talk, or confess. Sheila described this method as “he’s giving us the rope – so that we’ll hang ourselves.” For instance, on piece of information he used was the photo of Eva Smith. He was very strategic with the way he positioned himself and the photo, as it enabled him to show a single person, yet nobody else saw it.

The inspector is also very authoritive. He deals with each member of the family very firmly and several times we see him “massively taking charge as disputes erupt between them.” This shows that the inspector is in control of what everyone says and can get anything out of them just by persuading them in the right way.

He seems to know and understand an extraordinary amount. He knows the history of Eva Smith and the Birlings’ involvement in it, even though she died only hours ago. Sheila tells Gerald, “Of course he knows.”

He knows that they are going to reveal their secrets soon enough, so he says, “I’m waiting to do my duty”. He says this just before Eric comes back, as if he expected him to appear at that very moment.

The inspector, in his final speech, seems to want to teach the Birlings that he what they did to Eva Smith/Daisy Renton was wrong, and all the characters were affected and learnt a lesson. He is used, throughout the play, as a narrative device, as he is the one that asks all the characters questions that the reader wants to ask themselves.

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The whole play and characters all symbolise something. The Birling family symbolise the seven deadly sins. All the characters represent at least one of the deadly sins, some representing more than one. Mr Birling represents greed because he sacked one of his employees, Eva Smith, just to save a few shillings. He also represents pride because he didn’t want his name and business being tarnished because of one girl. Mrs Birling represents wrath as she is angry at Eva Smith for using her name, in what she thinks is a spiteful way. She could also represent pride as she is proud of her name and does not want anyone else using her name without good reason. Sheila represents envy as she is angry at Eva Smith for laughing at her, and she represents wrath for the same reason. Eric represents gluttony as he has become an alcoholic; he is drinking far too much. He also represents sloth as he does not work for the money he gives to Eva Smith, and instead resorts to stealing it from his father’s business. Gerald represents lust as he fancies Eva Smith, and although he is in a relationship with Sheila, he still embarks on a sexual relationship with another woman, being Eva Smith.

Weighing up all of the information of the inspector, he is a very mysterious and omnipotent character, therefore he can get into the minds of the Birlings, and change their opinions. Priestley used dramatic tension, so the inspector draws in the audience by pausing, speaking short, brief sentences and saying things the audience and other characters would have never expected. The inspector plays the role of God, as he knows everything and wants the other characters to confess their sins to him, without him asking them. His message is that you can’t hide your secrets as they will soon be revealed.


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