What Is The Significance Of The Inspector Structurally, Thematically, Linguistically And Contextually In Priestley’s An Inspector Calls? How Could An Actor/Director Portray His Role Successfully On Stage? John Priestly first wrote An Inspector Calls in 1945, although it was not performed in England until 1 October 1946. The New Theatre in London hosted the performance by the Old Vic Company. The play is the story of an upper class family, living in the comforts of pre-WWI Britain.
As they finish their dinner, a mysterious police officer (known only as the Inspector) enters and questions the family about the suicide of a young woman, breaking them down and changing their moral opinions. The focus of the play is this journey that the family under go from ignorance to knowledge, brought on by the Inspector’s presence. This essay will explore how big a part of the plot the Inspector is and how he could be portrayed in a production successfully. Arguably one of the most important traits of the Inspector is his use of language.
He uses his choice of words to change the atmosphere, the mood of the characters and the pace of the conversation. When the Inspector enters at the beginning of the play, he appears in no rush to question the characters or even explain why he is there. This annoys Birling, as he is curious why this mysterious policeman is visiting: BIRLING: Well, what can I do for you? Some trouble about a warrant? INSPECTOR: No, Mr Birling. BIRLING: (after a pause, with a touch of impatience) Well, what is it then?
The Inspector uses the family’s fascination to ensure that he is always listened to and is in control. He is the only character in the play at this time that knows the purpose of his visit, and this complete knowledge of the case runs throughout the play, and has different effects on different characters. The Inspector feels that everyone should feel a sense of responsibility for each other. He disapproves of the family members’ attempts to distance themselves from the girl and displays this when talking to Mrs Birling: “She came to you for help, at a time when no women could have needed it more.
And you not only refused it yourself but saw to it that others refused it to. ” The Inspector is trying to evoke sympathy for the girl by not only stating facts but also adding extra, emotive details such as ” when no women could have needed it more”. The Inspector also, through his actions and possibly supernatural ways, creates a presence that makes the other characters listen to him without question. It says that when he enters for the first time that he creates a sense of “massiveness” and “purposefulness”.
The Inspector even manages to do things that would be judged as completely unacceptable by the Birlings if anyone else were to do it, such as interrupting the head of the household: INSPECTOR: (cutting in smoothly) Just a minute Mr Birling. ” The Inspector’s calm and composure creates a sense of authority about him and uses his presence to allow him to direct the conversation when he feels that it is drifting away from the central message of the play.
The character of the Inspector not only changes the direction of conversation when he wants to, but also changes the tempo of it according to the attitude of the person he is interviewing. For example, when he is questioning Sheila, the Inspector only lightly prompts her to tell her story: INSPECTOR: (cutting in) Never mind about that. You can settle that between you afterwards. What happened? Through this short open-ended question, the Inspector provokes Sheila to confess to using her influence to ensure Eva Smith lost her job.
With someone more tightly lipped, such as Mrs Birling, the Inspector uses lots of short questions, as she is unwilling to give an account of events: INSPECTOR: She appealed to your organisation for help? MRS B: Yes. INSPECTOR: Not as Eva Smith? MRS B: No. Nor as Daisy Renton. INSPECTOR: As what then? MRS B: First she called herself Mrs Birling– By changing the velocity of the exchange, the Inspector not only adapts his questions to the suspect but even possibly shock them into a confession. With Sheila the Inspector is supportive, maybe even sympathetic, towards her as she is clearly the most sensitive to the death.
As Sheila is already showing remorse for her actions, the Inspector isn’t unnecessarily cruel to her, although he is still concrete on the fact that what Sheila did was wrong. With Mrs Birling however, she appears not to regret her conduct or even feel sorrow for the girl’s death. The Inspector therefore changes his approach accordingly, asking her short questions and trying to get her to empathise with Eva Smith. When this fails, the Inspector then reveals Eva’s deserting lover to be Eric. The shock of this revelation completely destroys Mrs Birling’s mental barrier between her and Eva.