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The Inspector is a critical part of J. B. Priestly “An Inspector Calls”. He is a catalyst in a concoction of Edwardian lies and deceit. The Inspector’s role in the play is to make the other characters realise how people are responsible for how they affect the lives of others. Priestly thought that if we are more aware of responsibility, the world should learn from their mistakes and develop into a place where every can be treated fairly. The Inspector states that everyone is, “… intertwined with our lives… ” (p. 56).
It is interesting that the Inspector enters after Birling has just finished his speech on society and how he says, “…you’d think everybody has to look after everybody else” (p. 10). The Inspector is the antithesis of Mr. Birling’s Victorian and capitalist view on society: every man for himself. Clearly, throughout the play, the Inspector has talked about the community, togetherness and sharing.
The Inspector expresses an individual view of society. From the dialogue, it is evident that the Inspector has a socialist view. A socialist is a person who believes in a political and economic theory or system where the community, usually through the state, owns the means of production, distribution and exchange.
An example of a socialist view from the Inspector is, “… we are members of one body. We are responsible for each other” (p. 56). Priestly uses the Inspector as a soapbox on which he can express his own socialist views. As a result, when these socialist ideas compete with capitalist views, the audience become more conscious about the flaws of society and themselves. For example, through the Inspector’s comments on the way that factory owners exploited the desperation of others, the Inspector challenges the industrialist by saying that “… after all its better to ask for the earth than to take it” (p.15), Priestly now begins to put across his message about social injustice. Consequently, with his opinions and morals, the Inspector undermines Birling.
As when Birling states his capitalist opinion, the audience recognises early in the play that they are very wrong and immoral, “you’d think… we were all mixed up together like bees in a hive – community and all that nonsense” (p. 10). In addition, when the Inspector leaves and the Birlings find out that he may be a hoax, Birling says that the Inspector was “probably a Socialist or some sort of crank – he talked like one” (p. 60). This all strengthens Priestly’s political and moral point.