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Here Birling begins to get really wound up by the Inspector. In Mr. Birling’s opinion, not only is the inspector accusing him of being responsible for something he hasn’t done, he is now insulting him and the way he runs his business. We have seen previously that Mr. Birling takes pride in his business and all he has achieved so for the inspector to imply he knows how to run his business better than Mr. Birling himself, would really be taken as an insult. From then onwards, Mr. Birling and the Inspector do not get on at all. All through the play they are constantly finding fault in the others methods and criticising their ways as often as possible.
The next person the inspector interviews is Sheila and his relationship with her is very different. The relationship seen between these two characters is very different to that of any other characters in the play. The Inspector is a lot less harsh towards Sheila as he recognises that she is very fragile and only needs that slightest push to reveal her story. Sheila also appears to understand the Inspector, to an extent. She realises part way through the play that the inspector already knows what each family member has done and is just trying to get them to admit these things to each other and, indeed, themselves. “Shelia … You mustn’t try to build up a kind of wall between us and that girl. If you do, then the inspector will just break it down. And it’ll be all the worse when he does.”
Here we see how Sheila understands the Inspector and his ways. Mrs. Birling is trying her hardest to separate the family from the girl. Mrs. Birling sees no link between them, as the girl was lower class. Sheila refers to the Inspector breaking down a wall she means that no matter how hard Mrs. Birling tries, the Inspector will link them to her one way or another. It seemed, at times, that Sheila was the only family member that actually picked up on the Inspector’s enigmatic qualities. Often she was to stare at him and once stage directions requested this to be “wonderingly and dubiously”. Occasionally Sheila would voice her thoughts and once she admits her doubts to the inspector.
“Sheila …That’s true. You know. (She goes close to him, wonderingly.) I don’t understand about you.” The way the inspector has of ‘knowing all’ yet not being known by any of the characters is one of the ways he creates a lot of dramatic tension in the play and between the characters. Another way he achieves this is his use of Sarcasm and rhetorical questions. For example;”Inspector (sharply) Your daughter isn’t living on the moon. She’s here in Brumley too.” “Inspector (severely) Do you want me to tell you – in plain words?” The inspector uses rhetorical questions, not to lead people into further confession but to prevent the family from getting side tracked. The Inspector’s bluntness is not something that you would expect from him, being a police officer. This rudeness is what agitates the characters the most and it creates a lot of dramatic tension. The Inspector also answers back to the characters;
“Inspector (turning on him sharply) Why should you do any protesting?…” And is very blunt towards them. “Inspector Yes. And she’s right. Mrs B. (haughtily) I beg your pardon! Inspector (very plainly) I said Yes – I do understand her. And she’s right.” He also cuts in and interrupts the characters. “Birling Now look here, Inspector – Inspector (cutting in, with authority) He must wait his turn.” And the inspectors use of emotive language can often add a lot of tension and dread to the atmosphere. “Inspector …she died in misery and agony – hating life “.
All the above quotes show the Inspector’s rudeness and arrogance coming across quite intensely. Stage directions contribute a lot to the way the Inspector’s personality comes across. Often humour is to be spoken ‘dryly’ showing that the Inspector’s humour is kept mainly within his sarcastic nature. The character is also instructed to take charge often ‘massively’. This sort of thing has to be the foundations upon which the character is built providing him with all he needs to prevent becoming too friendly with the family and therefore building any sort of trusting relationship with them.
The inspectors exit is the most dramatic part of the play. His final speech is full of dramatic tension and the techniques used, help to make this very effective. This is one of the many ways that Priestly uses the character of the Inspector to voice many of his own thoughts and feelings of the time. By getting the Inspector to take charge in the way he does he succeeds in putting many views across through him. Many comments made by the inspector could possibly reflect Priestly’s morality and his thoughts and views. Also it could be that perhaps the Inspectors sarcastic nature, given to him by Priestly, might be a trait that Priestly himself nurtures.
The Inspectors closing speech is a perfect example of this. Priestly uses many of the dramatic techniques commonly found in speeches when making this speech such as listing things in threes; ” … with their lives and hopes and fears …” Also he uses contrastive pairs, he speaks of not being able to do Eva smith any more harm and then adds that neither can we do her any good. Also he reminds the family that one Eva Smith may be gone but there are still a great many left. In the speech we see the Inspector voice the thought that we are all connected to each other in some way. We have seen across the course of the evening that a small room full of people is all connected to this one girl in on way or another.
” … there are millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, and what we think and say and do …” Priestly is saying here how we all play a big part in each other’s lives and we should help one another. He goes on to say; ” … We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. …” This is another common technique in speech making. Using the word ‘we’ the inspector is including himself in what he is saying. This helps the audience indentify with what is being said. The Inspector also talks negatively about ‘them’ – others as a whole rather than individuals. This makes for a strong section of the speech.
“…If men will not learn …then they will be taught it…” The final part of the inspectors speech is the most memorable and most effective. Again Priestly places words in three’s and uses negative speech about ‘them’. Also in this part of the speech we see the Inspectors sense of authority return when he says to the other characters “…I tell you…” giving the sense that the Inspector knows what will happen and he should be listened to and taken seriously. “…And I tell you 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…”
Here we may see some historical events come into play. The play itself was written after the Second World War. It was set, however, before the First World War in 1912. As the play was written so long after it was set, it would mean that Priestly would have been aware of forthcoming events. The Inspector refers to men learning a lesson “…in fire and blood and anguish…” it is possible therefore that Priestly was referring to the War that they would be just about to occur. I also think that Priestly is using the story line of the play to relate to a story line seen in the world at that time. The story of the First World War.
Throughout the play we see that family has taken it in turns to have some, negative effect on a young girls life. We are told that all that happened led the girl to commit suicide. Perhaps what priestly was trying to say in this play, is that if all the events leading up to World War One had not come to pass then maybe the war could have been avoided. I think priestly was successful in putting his views across through the Inspector and overall in creating the play he got many messages across to the audience.
Having evaluated the play I have discovered many things about the character of the Inspector. Throughout the play he acts as a voice for others, either Priestly or occasionally even the audience. Despite constantly revealing things about the family members not once is anything ever revealed about him, this adds to the inspectors enigmatic and mysterious qualities which is what gives the inspector what he needs to have such an effect on the audience. I think the Inspector worked extremely well as a dramatic device in the play, creating tension when needed, using many techniques to get across important points, but most of all remaining insignificant.
There can be no dispute over the fact that the inspector is a vital part of the play, however until the end, he never seems to really play a big part. Until the end, and his final speech, the inspector is merely seen as someone to bring about the events of the play, never once does such an event involve him. The Inspector could be seen as representing fate and destiny in the play, giving each character in turn the push they needed to realise the way they’ve been living is not acceptable, and their actions can have dire consequences. This sort of realisation hits, not only the characters, but also the audience, which may have been exactly what Priestly was trying to do.