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Priestley shows this in the section after the inspector has left “I remember what he said, how he looked, how he made me feel. Fire and blood and anguish. ” This shows the affect that he had on certain characters was very big. In his closing speech the Inspector left with a warning; “And I tell 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. ” This could be referring to the first world war, where men from all different backgrounds, and classes, would have to stand together, as equals, and fight for their country.
This contradicts Mr Birling’s prediction at the start of Act 1; “Just because the Kaiser makes a few speeches… The Germans don’t want war. Nobody wants war,” This shows the difference between the philosophies of the Inspector and Birling, it also demonstrates Priestley’s idea that Mr Birling’s capitalist views are wrong, and how the Inspector, who is right about war, is probably right about everything else. Priestley uses this to show the benefits a socialist society would bring to the world.
Priestley is suggesting that Birling’s “every man for himself” idea will end in tragedies like Eva. Whereas the Inspector’s Philosophy of shared responsibility would avoid such terrible events. The experience of the Inspector’s questions changes some characters, but has no effect on others. It starts off with all of the family sitting down feeling no guilt whatsoever, but after the Inspector comes Eric and Sheila realise the seriousness of what they have done, whilst the others, at this point believing it is a practical joke, feel no guilt.
What Mr and Mrs Birling and Gerald didn’t seem to understand is that even if it wasn’t the same girl (and no one was sure if it was or not) that they still did these cruel actions, and millions of other people do similar things without knowing the consequences, many young men and women will come to a similar end. Another point to the structure of the play is that the inspector only reveals small parts of Eva’s story to certain characters, never letting more than one person see the photograph at once.
This gives the twist at the end more mystery. The Inspector affected different characters differently, depending on how much they understand what was going on in the world at that point in time. Mr Birling was affected slightly at the start, but being a weak character, and because of his wife’s superior class always follows her lead. Therefore after watching his wife’s interrogation, and seeing the way she refused to give in to the Inspector, and not feel guilty about what she has done, he follows suit.
He and Mrs Birling were the least affected characters, in the end, possibly because they didn’t understand what life would have been like for Eva Smith without all the things they did to her. Gerald felt very guilty at first, because he had feelings for her, but then he went for a walk and didn’t feel as guilty anymore. This is probably because Gerald has grown up used to money, and inherited his parent’s capitalist views. Eric and Sheila were most affected by the Inspector, especially his final words, this is shown when Sheila repeats them “Fire and blood and aguish.
” Sheila and Eric understand most about what goes on in the world, this is demonstrated early on ” but what about war? ” and when Sheila knows about Eric’s drinking problem. They understand more that this sort of thing can happen to people, and these small actions can lead people to commit suicide, this is probably why the inspector affected them more. After watching the play, the audience can interpret the character of Inspector Goole in many different ways. You could think of him just as a normal man, who, having heard of the Birling family’s selfish acts, wishes to help them change for the better.
Or he could be a conscience to make them feel guilty about what they’ve done, and stop distancing themselves from the working class. He could also be the ghost of Eva Smith in another form to make them pay for what they’ve done. His surname also indicates this as it is a homonym of ghoul, another word for ghost. I conclude that Birling represents the views of capitalists and the inspector represents the views of socialists. Priestley makes Birling a weak, unintelligent, ignorant and Selfish character who rambles on a bit and desperate to fit in with the higher class that he follows his wife’s lead.
Sybil seems to guide her husband, Telling him what he should or shouldn’t say, this is made evident when she disapproves with him saying: “Good dinner too – Sybil tell cook for me. ” Mrs Birling would disapprove because saying what good food it was, wasn’t considered a polite thing because it is like fishing for compliments from Gerald. She doesn’t like him saying tell cook for me because it implies they talk to their servants, which wouldn’t have been done in those days. Birling also copies Gerald’s father’s (his social superior) choice of wine, to make Gerald think that he is marrying into a family with as much money as his.
In contrast, Priestley makes the inspector appear as a person who speaks carefully, is intelligent, knows what is going on in the world, is very strong and comes across as a kinder, selfless person; Priestley uses this to make the audience think that a socialist society will provide a fairer, more just solution to the world’s problems.