Compare and contrast the characters of Inspector Goole and Mr Birling in Act One. How does J.B Priestly use dramatic devices to help shape an audiences’ response to views presented in this play. J.B Priestly’s play was set in 1912 but written in 1945. The President at the time was called Herbert Asquith. The Titanic was built and nicknamed, ‘The Unsinkable’. It crashed on its first commercial journey on an iceberg and sunk, more than a hundred were unfound. It was just before World War 1 broke out against Germany.
In 1945, World war 2 had just ended. Thousands upon thousands had perished in the war and the country was grieving its vast loses, still pondering the horrific situation upon which they had been left in. The country was brought together in sadness and grieving. Britain in 1912 was a nation divided by class. Poverty was no longer the fault of the poor but the fault of society Britain had created. While the poor suffered, the rich and middle class enjoyed a lifestyle which even people today would envy. Poverty ravished the country. This was made to a great extent worse by World war 1 and 2.
Priestly, through this play was trying to show the appalling fault of society. The extremes and ignorance of the Capitalist views and that unless it stopped this kind of poverty and war would continue happening. He was trying to convey to the audience his Socialist views. By undertaking this, he could outline all the negative points of Capitalist ideas and at the same time highlight all the good points about the Socialist ideas, effectively demonstrating the potential of Socialist views and subconsciously allowing people to think twice about Capitalism.
The Inspectors name, Goole, is a dramatic device used in order to express to the audience that there is a kind of mysterious nature about him. The Goole name relating to such as a ghost as it sounds a lot like ‘ghoul’. This is very ironic, as he seems to act this very well. Goole is also a seaport town, this can be linked with the referral to ‘fish’ for information. He is fishing for information from the Birling family. He is much like Eva Smith, just another face in the crowd, common.
This links with the name ‘Smith’ it is a very common name. Eve was the very first women in the Bible and is represented in that way as being very innocent and is an innocent victim in this matter. She is representing society and all the oppressed victims. This associates with the continuous repetition of “A lot of these young women” by the Inspector which further hints to what or who Eva Smith represents. He also seems to be omniscient about the matter of Eva Smith. Almost intimidating at times. None of the Birling family is sure how much he already knows, but all the same he still drags the truth from them.
The Inspector is not a big man and ‘need not be a big man as he creates at once the impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness’. He is in his fifties and dressed in a plain darkish suit of the period. Priestly introduces him as a superior person. A person who is going to make an impact even before he has spoken based purely on his appearance. Because of the Inspectors appearance it gives a que for everyone including the audience to take him seriously. His appearance alone demands respect. He comes across as being very professional, organised and thus good at his job. He is talked about by Sheila as if you cannot trick him. He will find out what he does not already know. The Inspector is the catalyst in the play. He speeds up all the confessions of the characters in the play by the belief of the other characters that he already knows everything and he tries to make them change in order to help society.
On the other hand, Arthur Birling is a: “Heavy looking very portentous man in his middles fifties with fairly easy manners but rather provincial in his speech.” The spotlight is immediately taken off Mr Birling when the Inspector walks in and this discomforts him. The Inspector looks somewhat superior to Mr Birling. Mr Birling hates this as he demands social status because of how rich he is. He tries very hard to gain social superiority but lacks refinement. “Tell the cook for me” It is bad manners to comment on the food at your own house, Mrs Birling says to him “Arthur you must not say such things.” As you can see by this, Mrs Birling is Mr Birling’s social superior. This is ironic as he is trying to depict himself as a person of high social status but it has already been seen by his actions and what he says that he is not of high social status, he lacks the correct mannerisms. The effect of this is that he is made to look dim-witted and the audience would not look to him as being a superior man to the inspector but the same underneath.
The inspector speaks like a judge or prophet. He continually makes comments about the actions of the characters in the play. The Inspector seems to care a lot about other people. He believes everyone should act as a community and all have responsibility for their actions against anyone. This is in deep contrast to the morals of Mr Birling. Mr Birling thinks that he has no responsibility over his employees. If he fires them then it is their responsibility what they do. He is very ‘right wing’ in his thinking and does not believe that everyone is equal.