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Example research essay topic: The Role Of Inspector In 'an Calls - 2,404 words

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Discuss the role of the Inspector in the play. How does Priestley use him? Comment on the way the Inspector varies his treatment of the characters. An Inspector Calls is a play with many social and political messages. J. B.

Priestley believed a great deal in socialism and he used several of his plays to try and influence people to be Socialist as well. It was written in a time when Britain was ruled by a Labour government and socialist policies were seen as the way forward. It was a popular way of thinking at that time so Priestley's aim for the play was probably to teach the unconvinced. The Inspector in J.

B. Priestley's 'An Inspector Calls' is one of the most thought-provoking and mysterious characters that modern day literature has yet produced. It is this mysterious element that contributes greatly to making him a very interesting character and one that may be perceived in many ways. The audience does not find a great deal out about the Inspector and nothing is explicitly told to us; we are given hints and clues from the way he acts and what he says and are forced to piece these together to form our own ideas about his identity and his intentions. In this way, Priestley has asked his audience to act as a judge and to reach personal conclusions about him. The role of the Inspector is one of many levels.

In terms of how he is used in the basic structure of the play, he is there to move the play along in that he encourages the characters to tell their stories. If there was not the revelation that he was not a real Police Inspector, he would only be considered as a narrator and not play a big part in the play. Because it transpired that he was an impostor of sorts, further questions are asked by the audience and different insights have become likely and it is clear that the Inspector is in the play for many reasons. The play is set in the house of the Birling family. As soon as the curtains open, it is clear that the family is wealthy because there is high quality furniture and decoration in the house in which the play is set. The family use their house as a status symbol and have decorated it in a way so as to reflect their wealth.

We learn this from the 'few imposing but tasteless pictures' which will probably have been chosen because they were expensive, not because they were liked. These pictures also tell us that the Birling's are proud of their wealth and think themselves to be very important but lack the good taste which is present in those who are socially superior to them. The house is described as being 'substantial and comfortable and old-fashioned, but not cosy and homelike. ' This setting suggests that the family are uncomfortable with each other and therefore suggests problems. They speak to each other in a fairly relaxed manner, despite the attempts from Mrs. Birling to enforce a more formal atmosphere by correcting her family whenever they make minor errors in table manners.

The champagne shows that family are joined to celebrate. Gerald is a guest at the house and so the family are all well-behaved and pleasant to one another but there are several hints that this is for show and there are problems which are being ignored. Mrs. Birling treats Eric and Sheila as if they are two small children even though Sheila is engaged to Gerald and so is a young woman. This is shown when Sheila refers to Eric as 'squiffy' and Mrs. Birling scolds her by saying 'What and expression, Sheila!

Really the things you girls pick up these days!' This also shows the difference between the generations; Sheila is younger and so does not act in the same way that her mother thinks women should act. It also suggests that she is reluctant to let her children grow up because once they reach a certain age they would move away and she would live with just her husband, a prospect that she seems unlikely to look forward to. Although the audience is unaware of any problems she and Birling may have, we are given a hint later when she tells Sheila that 'When you " re married you " ll realise that men with important work to do sometimes have to spend nearly all their time and energy on their business. You " ll have to get used to that, just as I had. ' This suggests that their relationship is not very close. Later, Eric says that he sees some of Birling's 'respectable friends' with 'fat old tarts round the town'. Birling's reaction to this is angry and he clearly does not want any further mention of that topic.

From this reaction, it is possible to conclude that Birling might also go to prostitutes, as that sort of behaviour was fairly common amongst upper middle-class men at that time. There is a suggestion that Gerald had an affair because Sheila says to him 'all last summer... you never came near me'. There is also a hint at Eric's drinking problem, because even at dinner Sheila notices that he is 'squiffy. ' He later acts uneasily when Gerald and his father are joking with him about the possibility of him having 'been up to something' and he says that he does not 'think it's very funny. ' The audience knows that the joke was harmless and might wonder what Eric has to worry about. As soon as the Inspector enters the stage, the lighting becomes brighter and any shadows would be eliminated. This effect is to show that they can no longer hide and that the Inspector will bring everything to light.

This indeed does happen and all of the problems that have been hinted at previously are brought out, plus some others. The war would have been an even sadder issue in 1947 when the play was first shown than it is now, and one which would have made people feel uneasy and would have provoked a lot of emotions and a lot of bad memories. This means that when Birling spoke about it in his speech, the audience would suspect that the play was about to become darker because such a distressing topic would not be mentioned if something bad was not going to happen. This is an example of dramatic irony because the play was written in 1947 so the audience knew that there were two world wars about to happen, but the characters did not. The Inspector seems to already know of the incidents that the family tell him. When Eric and Sheila find out what their parents and Gerald contributed to the demise of Eva, they are shocked: 'Well I think it's a damn shame. ' The Inspector reacts quite contrarily to this and stays perfectly calm and shows no surprise at what is being said which suggests that he is waiting for their confessions.

Sheila notices this and says 'We hardly ever told him anything he didn't know. ' The characters cannot hide the truth from the Inspector because he appears to know it already. In this way, he is similar to a conscience. An Inspector investing a crime would want to find out all he could and look for evidence and so forth, but the Birling's have not committed a crime punishable by law. Therefore, the only way for the Inspector to avenge Eva Smith was to make the people in question feel guilty.

The Birling parents will not accept any blame and just try to justify what they have done by saying 'The girl had been causing trouble in the works, ' and 'it wasn't I who had turned her out of her employment - which probably began it all. ' Eric and Sheila, however, show a lot of remorse and are quick to take responsibility for their actions; Sheila admits that she had no excuse for doing what she did, she was just 'in a bad temper. ' This to show that there is hope for the future and that ideas are changing; the younger generation are more supportive of Socialism and the idea of helping others and not just thinking of oneself. Priestley uses the play as an example of what can happen if we are ignorant to the feelings of others as this was an issue that he cared a lot about and one that recurred in several of his other plays. Just before the Inspector leaves he turns the blame onto the whole of society by mentioning that the problem did not lie with just Eva Smith and one particular family, but it was the 'millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us... intertwined with our lives. ' This was said near to the end so that it would not be an idea forgotten, but one that might play on the minds of the audience long after they left the theatre. Priestley intended to make his audience think about how they may be hurting people and to make them feel guilty for what they may have done in the past and the Inspector is a useful medium for Priestley's beliefs to be spoken through.

The Inspector is described as speaking 'carefully, weightily'. On stage, this would give the Inspector an air of power and importance. He acts in a fairly dominant way and he often has times when he gives Arthur Birling no respect at all, such as when he says 'Don't stammer and yammer at me again, man. ' Because the Inspector treats Arthur in this way even though he knows he is 'still on the Bench' it implies that he treats people the same no matter what their position is. Birling often seems intimidated by the Inspector and often accepts the disrespect he is given even though it would annoy him because he is very used to being given respect as he was 'an alderman for years - and a Lord Mayor two years ago. ' Because Birling does not know what to do when he is treated in this way, it suggests that he is a weak person.

It is ironic that a character who believes very strongly that one should only be responsible for oneself is also a character who does not seem to be able to fend for himself. The Inspector questions Birling about why he fired the girl for asking for more money. This shows further lack of respect from the Inspector and also shows that he cares about individuals. Birling was 'surprised' at being questioned, so it seems that what he says is usually accepted as correct. His surprise could also be because of exactly what the Inspector was questioning. Birling says that it is his 'duty to keep labour costs down' which indicates that he does not think of each worker as a person and cares a great deal about money.

The fact that he did not recognise the name Eva Smith even though she was someone he dealt with directly and a worker who stood out, further shows that he does not think of his employees as people. To him they are nameless and have no individuality. This would make a lot of the audience angry as this is a very Capitalist view. Some of the audience might also feel an affinity with Eva in that they may have also been treated in a similar manner. The Inspector pretends to share Birling's attitudes to class by saying 'like a lot of these young women who get into various kinds of trouble. ' This encourages Birling to talk to him because he sees him as somebody who will not oppose him.

This implies that the Inspector knows how Birling thinks even though he has apparently only known him for a short while. The Inspector recognises early on that Sheila is more morally sound than her father as she points out that 'these girls aren't cheap labour - they " re people. ' When she says 'So I'm really responsible?' she shows that she can admit when she is wrong. The Inspector probably thinks more highly of her than Arthur because of this, but he still speaks 'sternly' to her as he does to the other characters. This proves that he does not forgive easily. Once the line of questioning turns to Gerald, the Inspector is more friendly to Sheila. He understands that she would want to hear about Gerald's affair with Eva Smith and ensures that she stays by arguing that if she left then and heard no more she would 'feel she's entirely to blame. ' At first, when the Inspector refuses to show Gerald the photograph of the girl, Gerald is 'showing annoyance. ' He tries to be authoritative towards the Inspector, possibly to impress his future wife and in-laws.

The Inspector will not be ordered to do anything. For example, when Gerald tells the Inspector that he's 'Getting a bit heavy-handed, ' the Inspector calmly dismisses his comment by saying 'Possibly. But if you " re easy with me, I'm easy with you. ' When Gerald tells his story, he is questioned mainly by Sheila who is angry with Gerald for betraying her. The Inspector treats Gerald with neither fondness nor contempt. He observes that 'he at least had some affection for her and made her happy for a time. ' Mrs.

Birling is not present for the majority of the questioning, so she is unfamiliar to the Inspector's abruptness. She describes him as 'a trifle impertinent'. She, like Arthur Birling, seems to be used to receiving nothing but respect. This is because she is of a high-middle class.

The Inspector treats the characters with the same disregard as they gave Eva Smith. Mrs. Birling becomes increasingly annoyed at how the Inspector treats her. This is shown when the Inspector says, 'You " re not telling me the truth', and she replies 'I beg your pardon!' She seems horrified by the way she reacts that somebody could speak in that way to a lady of her class.

Like her husband, Mrs. Birling refuses to accept any responsibility for the death of Eva Smith. Protective of her family, she does no...


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Research essay sample on The Role Of Inspector In an Calls

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