At the start of the play Sheila and Eric are a lot like their parents, but by the end they seem to care more for taking responsibility in their actions. The effect this may have on the audience is that they might begin to think Birling is a bad man, and that he is selfish and uncaring for anybody else. The audience may start to support Sheila and Eric in their argument for socialism, and agree with them. The inspector is a very mysterious man, and though he ‘needn’t be a big man’, upon sight he creates ‘an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness’.
Priestley has cleverly designed this character, saying that he ‘speaks carefully, weightily’, and also mentions that the inspector has a ‘disconcerting habit of looking hard’ at the person he address before speaking to them. Again, this emphasizes how important stage directions are to Priestley. He interrogates the Birlings and Gerald, who are very unhappy to have the inspector present, and it seems he arrived at an awkward time, since the family were just celebrating an ‘occasion of engagement’ between Sheila and Gerald. The inspector immediately drains them of their glee like a dark messenger.
The inspectors’ role in the play is to arrive at the Birlings’ house and question them for information about the death of a girl, named ‘Eva Smith’. He tells them all that she had ‘died in the infirmary just two hours ago’, and she had been taken there that afternoon from ‘swallowing a lot of strong disinfectant’. To make Eva’s death sound even worse and to help summon the audience’s sympathy, he goes into the graphic detail of telling them she was ‘burnt inside out’. During his visit the inspector asks a lot of questions, and frequently interrupts the Birlings, to help give out his impression of ‘massiveness’.
A lot of his sentences are short, which help to emphasize his sense of authority, but they still make a lot of sense. When Mr. Birling asks the inspector whether he is there for some ‘trouble about a warrant’, he merely replies with a short “No, Mr. Birling”. Birling feels awkward and impatient upon hearing this, and so he tries to restart the conversation. He tries to use his social position to intimidate the inspector; but even boasting that he is the ‘owner of a business’ does not seem to stir the inspector at all. J. B.
Priestley uses the inspector’s ‘false’ name, Inspector Goole, to make the audience think in a particular way. His name sounds like ‘ghoul’, which is the name given to a dead being that people believe haunt deserted houses. Upon hearing the name ‘Goole’ the audience may think the inspector is a ghost who may have come to get his revenge on the Birlings, or perhaps he could be a figment of their imagination. Just hearing the inspector’s name will make the audience eager to find out who he is and what his purpose is with the Birlings.
A dramatic device is something a writer uses to catch the audiences’ attention. One dramatic device that Priestley uses in this play is the use of dialogue as the inspector tells the family and Gerald of Eva Smith’s death. The information of any character dying in a play will immediately catch the audience’s attention, and since the inspector has come to see the Birlings about it, then the audience begins to think the death was related to them. They may also think he has come to question them about her, or even to accuse them of killing her.
It’s possible that the inspector is related to Eva – but the audience can only find out by listening to the dialogue. This is why interesting dialogue is useful in making the audience aware and pay attention to the story. Another dramatic device Priestley uses is when he starts to imply Mr. Birling isn’t the only one guilty of Eva’s suicide. He says to Sheila that when Eva was ‘working at Milwards’, a clothes shop, a customer ‘complained about her’, so she had to leave. Sheila asks when this happened, and the inspector shows her a photograph nobody else gets to see.
Sheila’s reaction to the photograph the minute she sees it makes it obvious she is the ‘customer’ that complained. Therefore, she may also be guilty of Eva’s suicide. The audience will want to verify this. The photograph is also effective because the audience do not get to see it either. This is another dramatic device. Priestley includes these dramatic devices to keep the audience interested. They are successful, because they made me want to know what happens next and whether the Birlings will find a way out of these accusations.
I conclude that ‘An Inspector Calls’ is an excellently-written play, and was introduced to the world at an effective time. Although the play isn’t very fun to read, it captures the audience’s imagination and keeps them hooked on the storyline. The play’s purpose has touched many, and Priestley tries to make us understand that if we all work together, the world will be a better place.