I know half of these ideas aren't mine, but after some research, I have put together an essay answering the question 'Why is the inspector a significant character'. Can I please have feedback on how I could improve. A mark would be appreciated as well. Thanks
J.B. Priestley's didactic play 'An Inspector Calls' is arguably a product of its time, with the world wars heavily influencing how capitalism is presented. It is undoubted that Inspector Goole is one of the most significant characters in the play, as he is used as a dramatic device, acting as a mouthpiece for J.B. Priestley in order to illustrate the message - to be more empathetic towards the plight of the proletariat. This would have a profound experience on the post war audience, as through their suffering, they would have realised the importance of unity.
Inspector Goole, in the first act, is portrayed as a crucial character as he introduces a supernatural and mysterious element to the play. This is firstly conveyed through his name "Goole", which rhymes and connotes to the noun "ghoul". This might suggest that he is a ghost, sent from heaven to remind the Birlings to atone for their sins and stop being ignorant to the plight of the working class, or else he will haunt them. This image of the inspector's potent character is further illustrated by his presence. For instance, the lighting in the house is initially described as 'pink and intimate', which has connotations of contentment and warmth. However, this is immediately replaced by a 'brighter and harder' light, which serves to symbolise the removal of the Birling's sheltered and shielded nature, which are lifted and replaced by the 'bright' and 'hard' light of an interrogation room. This lighting change foreshadows the rest of the play, as Priestley will throw into relief the issues within the Edwardian society to the inspector, symbolised by 'bright' light, in which nothing can hide. Alternatively, the noun 'pink' could be referring to the idiomatic phrase 'rose tinted glasses'. This insinuates how the Birling's view the world in their own lens. However, their perspective to the lower class is being challenged by the Inspector.
Priestley's proxy, the inspector, is also an impartial figure in the play as he does not fit into the distinct levels of society; the upper and the lower classes. This gives the audience the impression that the inspector is an unbiased figure. Therefore, they will be persuaded to listen to him and ultimately follow Priestley's socialist views.
Inspector Goole also plays a vital role in the play as he gives a voice to the proletariat and compels those people reluctant to be responsible to embody accountability. This resonates throughout the play but is shown in particular towards the end of the play in act three when the inspector assertively declares that "we have to share out guilt". Here, Priestley uses the pronoun "we" to create a sense of unity, emphasising the need for an inclusive society. Contextually, this is especially important as the play 'An Inspector Calls' was set in 1912, a time in which society was divided not only by gender but also by social class. Therefore, the use of the inclusive pronoun can be viewed as paradoxical, in the way that it subverts the audience's expectations about a divided society. Augmented by the imperative verb "have to", he could be imposing the Birlings and ultimately the audience to take responsibility for their actions, as they are all "members of one body", which could be insinuating that like the organs and limbs in a human body, we cannot function properly without each other. However, one can deduce that like a human body, some organs are more important than others, such as the heart. However, the significance here is that with greater importance comes greater responsibility.
Moreover, the inspector's presence proves to be significant as he catalyses the change of the more 'impressionable' younger generation. For instance, when Gerald gives Sheila the ring, Sheila cheerfully declares 'Oh it's beautiful! Look Mummy, isn't it a beauty. Now, I feel really engaged'. In this quote, Sheila comes across as materialistic and shallow, as she is easily impressed and cannot control her emotions. This idea is further crystalised by informal mode of address 'mummy', which could be illustrating her as an immature and infantile character. The word 'now' could be serving as a reflection of the patriarchal society at the time. It could be insinuating how she only views value in her relationship because of the ring. This links to capitalism as she thinks that wealth is more important thana affection. Alternatively, the ring could be symbolising a women's value being tied to her marital status, implying their reliance on men, and therefore highlighting the past gender inequalities in society. Priestley criticises this throughout the play, and advocates for a more equal society. However, after being interrogated by the Inspector, one can deduce that Sheila undergoes development and becomes a reformed socialist. This is brought to light when Sheila starts calling Mrs Birling 'mother' instead of 'mummy' for example, which could be interpreted as Sheila distancing herself from capitalism as a whole. This is also evident in the quote 'but these girls aren't cheap labour, they're people'. By stating the obvious, Sheila highlights her 'hard-headed- father's ignorance. He is so blinded by money to the point where he doesn't see his workers as people, but as 'cheap' tools for an 'increase in prosperity'. Sheila is, therefore, urging him to humanise them and vows to 'never' do it again. Alternatively, the generic nouns 'girls' and 'people' could be insinuating how Sheila doesn't understand the proletariat as her parents are dismissive of them due to their position in the hierarchy. However, suggested by the conjunction 'but', Sheila transgresses her parent's beliefs and challenges societal norms.
Last but not least, through the inspector's brief but ominous warning, he emphasises the need for change, and insinuates the consequences if the status quo remains. Before the inspector leaves, he states that if 'men' fail to learn from their mistakes, they will learn in 'fire, blood and anguish'. This could be referring to war. The entire play is used as a motif for the world wars; if people fail to learn from their mistakes, then the wars will repeat in an endless cycle. However, this could also be a biblical allusion referring to hell. This allusion gives the inspector a God-like status, which could invoke fear in the audience as they are persuaded that the inspector is is imposing judgement on society. Alternatively, the inspector's God-like status could be implying that the need for change is so necessary that even God is enforcing it. However, it is only 'men' who have the ability to change, as in the patriarchal society, women had virtually no power and no choice apart from being 'cheap labour'. After his last speech and exit, there's a sudden silence because no one else is speaking. The audience, like the characters on stage, are left 'starring, subdued and wondering'. Therefore, this quote exposes the detrimental effect of capitalism on the welfare of others. Priestley truly believed in this because in 1945, he along with twelve million others, voted for Labour in the election, causing a landslide win for the first time in history.
In conclusive terms, Inspector Goole proves to be an indispensable figure as he sheds light on all of Priestley's concerns in society. Priestley uses the inspector to highlight the flaws with a capitalist society in order to align the audience with his socialist views for Britain to progress as a country.