J. B. Priestly wrote the play in 1945, however the play is actually set in 1912. From this gap between 1912 -1945 some major historical events had taken place, for example: in 1906 the suffrage movement became active. In 1908 old age pensions were introduced, 1912 the Titanic sunk, in 1909 the first class channel flight had been successful. Also 1914-1918 the First World War took place. 1939-1945 the Second World War had also took place. And also in 1920 the first university degrees were opened to women.
Time is an important consideration in the play because it was written in 1945 but set in 1912 in this gap of time historical changes had taken place so when J. B Priestly had written the play in the year of 1945 (the year that world war two ended. ) he could not be sure what it exactly was like in 1912, because of all the historical changes that had taken place in that time gap (1912-1945). Also in 1912 there were class divides, working class (such as Eva), middle class and upper class.
Working class was for poor people, middle class was for people who weren’t poor but weren’t rich and upper class was for wealthy people (such as the Birlings and the Crofts). Goole is introduce into the play during the Birlings celebration a young girl has committed suicide and he slowly reveals how each member of the family have helped contribute towards her suicide. When each member of the Birling family find out that they contributed to the death of Eva Smith, they react in very different ways and learn different things from the experience.
In this essay I am going to talk about the effects that the inspector’s visit has on the other characters. Goole is introduced to the play as an inspector who is looking into a suicide case, priestly wants us to believe that Goole is an inspector who is looking into a suicide case, obviously priestly shows that Goole has a lot of information on the Birling family, but how does the inspector know all this information about the family?
Priestly wants us to believe that Goole is an inspector who is determined to get an end result, We can see this in the way he speaks to each of the characters, He is determined to bleed as much information out of them as he can. (But he already knows everything he needs to know, he tests them to see if they are telling the truth. ) We find out that Goole isn’t a real policeman when Mr Birling calls the hospital and asks if a young woman has died of poisoning that afternoon.
When the hospital tell him that no one has died of poisoning that afternoon the Birlings then know that they had been interviewed under false pretences (at this point the Birlings then know that inspector Goole wasn’t a real inspector). Goole’s visit has a big impact on the Birlings Household, we can see from it that the family have slowly grew apart. If Goole wasn’t a real inspector then why would he have gone to all the trouble to talk to the Birlings in the way he has?
Goole ‘if not a real inspector’ could have gone to these lengths to tell the family the hurt and pain that they have caused people such as Eva he might also have gone to these lengths to express the ways he feels about the Birlings. Priestly wants us to think open minded about weather Goole is a real inspector or not, this way everything that Goole says we are in two minds to believe. Mr Birling is a stubborn man who always believes he is right no matter what he does, he is wealthy man and respected for his work. Birling is pompous (he is full of his own views on life).
He is self-centred because his main concern is how the situation will effect his chances of a knighthood. Birling doesn’t understand his son because he doesn’t really listen to Eric or take any notice of his views. Birling is a man who believes and thinks what he wants to think, he is so tied up in his own fantasy world that he doesn’t even know his own family as good as he should. He is a prosperous businessman who only cares about his knighthood and his business (the business Eva was dismissed from). The inspector clearly points this out by the questions in which he asks.
Mr Birling’s family learn that he is a cold hearted man who only thinks about his own life and doesn’t let anyone come in the way of it. The inspector speaks to Mr Birling in a sharp and un-respectful way. The inspector shows no sorrow for Mr Birling, the inspector is sharp and to the point also at one point Mr Birling demands the inspector to leave at once. Mr Birling also speaks to the inspector in an un-respectful tone of voice, he is very concerned about the unexpected visit so he speaks as if he is being sarcastic and also as if he is trying to cover something up.
Mr Birling tries to show his importance by saying that he was “an alderman for years- lord mayor two years ago… is still on the bench”. Anyhow the inspector takes no notice of this remark and carries on with the investigation, as Mr. Birling tells his part of the story about his employee Eva Smith he tells it in such a way that he is a kind fair man who respects his fellow workforce but we can and Inspector Goole can see that it is only himself trying to cover up his own conscience. In reality Mr. Birling is a greedy man who is cold hearted and only thinks of no one but himself.
Near the end of the play Birling begins to feel sorry for Eva Smith, the inspectors visit had brought out Mr. Birlings emotional side of things also. But Mr. Birling thinks that his workers should not get more than the minimum annual pay and this in turn explains how Eva got dismissed, she lead a strike and Birling gave her the sack for being one of the main organizers. He shows Remorse when he says, “I would give thousands” but it is obviously too late and again, it is about money and not the caring.
At the end of the play when he thinks the inspector is a Hoax he feels pleased as he thinks he is back in the running for a knighthood again, but this thought goes when the hospital call them back and tell them the bad news. Overall Birlings main worry is what the public will think about him and his family he didn’t care about Eva or any other people, only himself. Now he has seen what the inspectors impact has had on the family and himself that if another inspector was to call again he would probably keep quiet and not show any emotion.
Sheila Birling learns a lot during the play and undergoes, in a short time space, a change that usually only happens over a very long period of time. This is cased by what she has gone through in the play, First she finds out that she was involved in Eva’s suicide. This makes her think about the sort of person she is and this starts the change of attitude inside her, then she finds out that Gerald had been having an affair with Eva and this then makes her think about the people that she loves and this in turn has destroyed her marriage.
Sheila becomes more mature as the play progresses and she sees the hurt and pain that she has been a part of and caused. When the inspector leaves she takes over the role of him by giving the family a lecture on how they should treat people no matter what class they are. But at Millwards Sheila got Eva the sack because she was a lower class woman and looked better than she did in a dress. By compare that we can see that Sheila has changed dramatically during the inspectors visit to the Birlings.
Sheila understands everything the inspector has said and she admits to the part in which she has played in Eva’s death. Sheila says to her parents “It’s you two who are being childish- trying not to face the facts”. At that moment she seems to tower over them just like the Inspector did. She goes on to say that “it doesn’t make any real difference ‘if he was a real Inspector or not'” because in her opinion he had addressed what he was trying to say to them and the bad that they had brought into Eva’s short life.
The main reason for her change in attitude is that she has an open mind and is willing to listen to what people have to say. She admits “I behaved badly too. I know I did. I’m ashamed of it”. This shows that she is sorry for the wrong that she has done in the past and tries to make her parents think the same but they refuse to do this, Sheila cooperates fully with the inspector on the fact if he is an inspector or not. It’s also clear that she wants to change for the better because she keeps saying “You’re pretending everything’s just as it was before”.
Sheila benefit’s from the inspectors visit because she now acts more openly and tells her family her points of view and that they were all in the wrong, it was like Sheila was feeling the hurt that Eva was feeling. Mrs. Birling is more is even more cold hearted than her husband, she has a position on the charity organization, She has the seat on the charity council this is not because she wants to help the poor but it is because she wants to feel Higher than the lower classes, she wants to feel like she has power over the lower classes so she does this by working on the charity board.
She has the seat on the charity council but he just ignores her irony as he did with Mr. Birling. Mrs. Birling feels she has the power to remove the inspector from her house when he says something that she disagrees with. Mrs. Birling also tells her part of the story in a way that makes her sound innocent and caring towards lower class people, but by reading the play we and the inspector know that this is not true. Mrs. Birling is a cold hearted lady who only looks after her own needs.
She looks down her nose at other people who are underneath her in the class divide and this can be proven by looking bak to the play where she doesn’t accept Eva at the charity. This is a quotation made by Mrs. Birling when the inspector had approached her about turning Eva Smith away from the charity , “you’re quite wrong to believe I will regret what I did… I was perfectly justified in advising the committee not to allow her claim for assistance… I accept no blame for it at all. ”
This shows that she is getting sharp with the inspector we can see this by how she says “I accept no blame for it at all. This shows how heartless she is she said that also to protect her reputation on the board of the charity because this is an important factor in her life. Mrs. Birling seems to know little about her family, and their habits she finds out this when the inspector informs them that the baby she was carrying was Eric’s so the inspectors visit has gave her a lot of information on her own family, this shows she didn’t know her own family too well because she was too busy playing the rich and upper class lady she also finds out about Eric’s drinking habits.
Mrs. Birling learnt nothing from the experience of the inspectors visit this shows that she was very ignorant and rude during the duration of his stay, but she may learn one point from his visit and that would be too keep quiet and keep the information to herself. She is not willing to discuss people of a lower class than her so she only hears what she wants to hear she only likes to know she is better than them and that she can overrule them. Gerald is the son of Birlings rival industrialist, Sir George Croft.
He is calm and collective all the time no matter where he is or what situation in which he is upon he is polite and tactful with Mr and Mrs Birling. Gerald is around thirty so he is older than Sheila and Eric. He is trusted with the secret of Arthur Birlings possible knighthood, Gerald also has views on how a factory should be run and how the workers who work inside it are treated and the importance of breaking even or making a profit are all also in the interests of Mr Birling. Gerald also supports the reasoning with which Mr Birling Justifies Eva Smith sacking from the firm.
Gerald met Eva again but she had changed her name to Daisy Renton Gerald saves her from the awkward situation with Alderman. Gerald helps Eva/Daisy out however his intensions go astray as he found her attractive from the start and allowed his feelings to develop, he felt affection for Eva/Daisy but admits that her feelings for him were much stronger than his feelings were for her. He only offered her temporary help and when he left her he gave her money to help her start a new life.
The fact that Gerald made Eva/Daisy happy for a while made him regret the way in which he had used her but he does not have such a deep response as Sheila does to the inspector’s message. He acts on his superstitions, and as a result he is the one who begins the chain of events leading to the feeling of certainty that Goole had been an imposter. Eric Birling is not quite at ease, he’s half shy but half assertive. He does not seem to have his father’s approval on the views he has his father just pushes his ideas aside and doesn’t take him very seriously.
His father does not keep him up to date about his possible knighthood and when Eric really needed help he felt that he couldn’t talk to his father because he thought that he couldn’t turn to his father because he didn’t think his father was the kind of man that a chap could talk about his problems too. Eric has forced his way into Eva’s home and got her pregnant and he also stolen money from his family, obviously his parents didn’t know this but they also found out that he also drinks too much. Like Sheila he feels sympathy for Eva Smith as soon as he hears how Mr Birling had sacked her.
When he has to admit how he behaved towards her he has a stronger sense of guilt than the other because the consequences of what he did are so much worse. It is not surprising that he turns violently on his mother when he learns how she had refused to help the girl. He curses his mother and accuses her of killing both the girl and the child. He had also been rude to his farther earlier and his rudeness to his parents increases the more he drinks. So we can get a picture in our head of what the defenseless girl felt when Eric was so drunk.
Eric appears to have learnt very little from his privileged education. Eric is one of the ones who have been impressed by the inspector he wants his parents to admit their mistakes as freely as he has admitted his. Even though we can see he has an aggressive side it appears he his learnt a lesson from the inspectors visit and is sincerely ashamed of his behavior and is capable like Sheila for changing for the better. So the question is ‘How does priestly present the character of Goole, if he is not a real policeman, why has he come to visit the Birlings?
What are the results of his visit? ‘ Well the inspector is introduced when the Birlings are having a celebration, this interruption spoils the celebration and takes away the party spirit that was there before the inspector turned up, the inspector is introduced as an inspector from the local constabulary the constabulary that Mr Birling knows very well, this is why he questions him about which constabulary he is from. The inspector talks with sarcasm to the family at first as they are very rude and demanding, once everyone settled he became more at ease and so did the family.
But what if he wasn’t a real policeman? Then why has he come to the Birlings? This is simple even if he wasn’t a policeman he could have came to point out the conflict that is going on between the family and also the hurt and pain that they are constantly putting Eva through but don’t know it, this Goole character might be acting in the best interests of Eva he might be a close friend or relation who cares for her and don’t want to see her get any more hurt than she already is.
Goole wants us to think open mindedly about his character, in some ways he makes us think he isn’t a real inspector and in others he tries to influence us into believing him, this is what got the information out of the Birlings by doing this confused them about what he was, this way once one person started talking then they all started but obviously some were sharp with the inspector.
Eva and Eric at the end of the play seem sympathy for Eva Gerald is stuck in the middle by being caring and ignorant (he is neither ignorant or caring he is in the middle of everything) Mr & Mrs Birling are two cold hearted people who only care about what they can make for themselves, they low down at lower class people as if they don’t exist.
So overall the inspectors visit has changed Sheila’s and Eric’s attitudes he has shown them what they have caused and they are now sorry and sympathetic, they are willing to change for the better as for Mr and Mrs Birling we can only say that the only thing that they have learnt is to be quiet in the future when inspectors ask them questions they learnt nothing from the inspectors visit whatsoever , Gerald is stuck in the middle of everything he neither feels sympathetic or argumentative he’s a person who has strong views but also strong feelings.
So overall this makes us feel that the Birlings household have been a very sad family from the start, they need to open up to each other and share their feelings, they need to get things off their mind if anything is bothering them by doing this Eric would not have had to turn to alcohol for answers.