An Inspecotr Calls

An Inspector Calls

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  • Created by: William
  • Created on: 26-03-11 13:07

Mr Birling

  • He is described at the start as a "heavy-looking, rather portentous man in his middle fifties but rather provincial in his speech."
  • He has worked his way up in the world and is proud of his achievements. He boasts about having been Mayor and tries (and fails) to impress the Inspector with his local standing and his influential friends
  • He shows off about the port to Gerald, "it's exactly the same port your father gets." He thinks he is likely to be knighted, move him even higher in social circles.
  • He claims the party "is one of the happiest nights of my life." This is not only because Sheila will be happy, but because a merger with Crofts Limited.
  • He is optimistic for the future and confident that there will not be a war. As the audience knows there will be a war, we begin to doubt Mr Birling's judgement.
  • He wants to protect his reputation. He is worried about how the press will view the story, and accuses Sheila of disloyalty. He wants to hide the fact that Eric stole money: "I've got to cover this up as soon as I can."
  • Yet he hasn't learnt the lesson of the play: he is unable to admit his responsibility for his part in Eva's death.
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Mrs Birling

  • She is described at the start as "about fifty, a rather cold woman and her husband's social superior."
  • She is a snob, very aware of the differences between social classes. She is very dismissive of Eva, saying "Girls of that class."
  • She has the least respect for the Inspector of all the characters.
  • She sees Sheila and Eric still as "children" and speaks patronisingly to them.
  • She tries to deny things that she doesn't want to believe: Eric's drinking, Gerald's affair with Eva, and the fact that a working class girl would refuse money even if it was stolen, claiming "She was giving herself ridiculous airs."
  • She admits she was "prejudiced" against the girl who applied to her committee for help and saw it as her "duty" to refuse to help her.
  • At the end of the play, she has had to come to terms that her son is a heavy drinker who got a girl pregnant and stole money to support her, her daughter will not marry a good social 'catch' and that her own reputation within the town will be sullied. Yet, like her husband, she refuses to believe that she did anything wrong and doesn't accept responsibility for her part in Eva's death.
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  • She is described at the start as "a pretty girl in her early twenties, very pleased with life and rather excited."
  • We know that she has had suspicions about Gerald when she mentions "last summer, when you never came near me."
  • She shows her compassion immediately she hears of her father's treatment of Eva Smith: "But these girls aren't cheap labour - they're people."
  • She is horrified by her own part in Eva's story. She feels full of guilt for her jealous actions and blames herself as "really responsible."
  • She is very perceptive; she realises that Gerald knew Daisy Renton from his reaction
  • She is curious. She genuinely wants to know about Gerald's part in the story; she says that she respects his honesty. She is becoming more mature.
  • She is angry with her parents in Act 3 for trying to "pretend that nothing much has happened."
  • At the end of the play, Sheila is much wiser.
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  • He is described at the start as "in his early twenties, not quite at ease, half shy, half assertive."
  • Eric seems embarrassed and awkward right from the start. The fist mention of him in the script is "Eric suddenly guffaws,"
  • It soon becomes clear to us that he is a hardened drinker. Gerald admits, "I have gathered that he does drink pretty hard."
  • When he hears how his father sacked Eva Smith, he supports the worker's cause, like Sheila. "Why shouldn't they try for higher wages?"
  • He feels guilt and frustration with himself over his relationship with the girl. He cries, "Oh - my God! - how stupid it all is!" as he tells his story. He is horrified that his thoughtless actions had such consequences.
  • He feels guilt and frustration with himself over his relationship with the girl. He cries, "Oh - my God! - how stupid it all is!" as he tells his story. He is horrified that his thoughtless actions had such consequences.
  • He is appalled by his parents' inability to admit their own responsibility. He tells them forcefully, "I'm ashamed of you."
  • At the end of the play, like Sheila, he is fully aware of his social responsibility.
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  • He is described as "an attractive chap about thirty, rather too manly to be a dandy but very much the easy well-bred man-about-town."
  • He is not as willing as Sheila to admit his part in the girl's death to the Inspector and initially pretends that he never knew her.
  • He did have some genuine feeling for Daisy Renton, however: he is very moved when he hears of her death. He tells Inspector Goole that he arranged for her to live in his friend's flat "because I was sorry for her;" she became his mistress because "She was young and pretty and warm-hearted - and intensely grateful."
  • Act 3 he tries to come up with as much evidence as possible to prove that the Inspector is a fake.
  • At the end of the play, he has not changed. He has not gained a new sense of social responsibility, which is why Sheila (who has) is unsure whether to take back the engagement ring.
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Inpector Goole

  • He is described on his entrance as creating "an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness. He is a man in his fifties, dressed in a plain darkish suit. He speaks carefully, weightily, and has a disconcerting habit of looking hard at the person he addresses before actually speaking. "
  • He works very systematically; he likes to deal with "one person and one line of enquiry at a time." His method is to confront a suspect with a piece of information and then make them talk - or, as Sheila puts it, "he's giving us the rope - so that we'll hang ourselves."
  • He is a figure of authority. He deals with each member of the family very firmly.
  • He seems to know and understand an extraordinary amount:
  • He knows the history of Eva Smith and the Birlings' involvement in it, even though she died only hours ago. Sheila tells Gerald, "Of course he knows."
  • He knows things are going to happen - He says "I'm waiting... To do my duty" just before Eric's return, as if he expected Eric to reappear at exactly that moment
  • He is obviously in a great hurry towards the end of the play: he stresses "I haven't much time." Does he know that the real inspector is shortly going to arrive?
  • His final speech is like a sermon or a politician's. He leaves the family with the message "We are responsible for each other"
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Eva Smith

  • The Inspector, Sheila Gerald and Eric all say that she was "pretty." Gerald describes her as "very pretty - soft brown hair and big dark eyes."
  • She was working class.
  • The Inspector says that she had kept a sort of diary, which helped him piece together the last two years of her life:
  • However, in Act 3 we begin to wonder whether Eva ever really existed. Gerald says, "We've no proof it was the same photograph and therefore no proof it was the same girl." Birling adds, "There wasn't the slightest proof that this Daisy Renton really was Eva Smith."
  • Think about Eva's name. Eva is similar to Eve, the first woman created by God in the Bible. Smith is the most common English surname. So, Eva Smith could represent every woman of her class.
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Dramatic Effect

The Inspector himself adds drama:

  • He controls the pace and tension by dealing with one line of enquiry at a time. Slowly the story of Eva's life is unravelled, like in a 'whodunnit'.
  • He is in command at the end of Act I and the start of Act 2, and the end of Act 2 and the start of Act 3. He is a brooding, inescapable presence, very much in control.
  • He is very mysterious and seems to know what is going to happen before it does

The ending leaves the audience on a cliff-hanger. In Act 3 the Birlings believed themselves to be off the hook when it is discovered that the Inspector wasn't real and that no girl had died in the infirmary. This releases some of the tension - but the final telephone call, announcing that a real inspector is on his way to ask questions about the suicide of a young girl, suddenly restores the tension very dramatically. It is an unexpected final twist.

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Dramatic Effect

  • There is dramatic irony. For instance, the audience knows how wrong Mr Birling is when he makes confident predictions about there not being a war and is excited about the sailing of The Titanic
  • Priestley describes the scene in detail at the opening of Act 1, so that the audience has the immediate impression of a "heavily comfortable house."
  • There are subtle hints that not is all as it seems. For example, early on we wonder whether the happy atmosphere is slightly forced. Sheila wonders where Gerald was last summer and Eric is nervous about something. This arouses interest in the audience - we want to find out what is going on!
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The older generation and the younger generation take the Inspector's message in different ways. While Sheila and Eric accept their part in Eva's death and feel huge guilt about it, their parents are unable to admit that they did anything wrong.


The play shows the reaction to lower class from the upper class Birlings


Women could hope for impressing a rich man and marry well. For working class women, a job was crucial. There was no social security at that time, so without a job they had no money. There were very few options open to women in that situation: many saw no alternative but to turn to prostitution.

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