Inspector Calls

Inspector calls

  • Created by: georgia s
  • Created on: 07-04-12 13:04

Inspector Calls Theme- Britain in 1912 and 1945


  • British Society was firmly divided along class lines. Those with most money had the most money had he most power. The Labour party was formed in 1906 to represent the interests of the working class.
  • Only men with properties could vote, women were not allowed to vote. Womens lifes were controlled by their families and husbands.
  • There was not as much government help for people in need as there is today. 
  • Britain was heading towards the First World War, after the war many British people questioned the leadership given by the upper classes during the war.


  • Britain was still divided by class however by 1928 all men and women over 21 could vote
  • There were still conflicts between business owners and workers such as the 1926 general strike which saw many industries grind to a halt
  • from 1930 a global economic slump known as the depression hit many british industries, there was an increase in unemployment and workers faced poverty
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Inspector Calls Themes-Family Life

Expectations of Middle Class Families

  • Family members were expected to know their role and to be content with their positions- the parents were in charge of the family and the children were expected to be obidient
  • Gender Roles were well defined

The Birlings

  • The Birlings want everyone to believe they're the perfect family
  • The gender roles are clearly defined- the ladies 'withdraw' to let the men talk
  • Theres tension though: Mrs Birling keeps correcting her family's social mistakes, Eric laughs out of turn and acts oddly, Sheila half playfully teases Gerald about last summer
  • The hierarchy is destroyed by the inspector
  • Without their parents influence, Sheila and Eric can think for themselves
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Inspector Calls Themes- Social Class 1

  • Priestly designed the characters to put across a message of social responsibility, so class plays a central part in the plot
  • The characters in the play represent the classes and Priestly challenges their views and behaviour in order to challenge the class hierarchy 
  • Class structure: Working class-Eva, Middle Class- Birlings, Upper class- Gerald
  • The class system made life hard for the lower class
  • Priestly portrays the upper classes as having a limited sense of social responsibility, they either: didn't know, didn't want to know or didn't care
  • Mrs Birling claims to not recognise Eva Smith's photo, for her Eva has no identity
  • Priestly suggested that the higher classes didn't question the class system as it worked for them, this is the same reason why they also overlooked problems of alcoholism and womanising
  • The Inspector tells the Birlings that they must accept that everyone should take responsibility for each other or it'll end in 'fire', 'blood' and 'anguish.
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Inspector Calls Themes- Social Class 2

  • Birling's biggest concern about Eva's death is that he won't get his knighthood as there will be a public scandal
  • Birling thinks his positions of authority make him more important. He'd been lord mayor and an alderman and now he's a magistrate who judges people-it's ironic that Birling passes judgement on others when he's acted so immorally
  • Birling uses Gerald to promote his social class- he asks him to tell his parents that he's expecting a knighthood and he's also pleased that Sheila is marrying into a higher class
  • Sybil Birling is a leading member of the Brumley Women's charity, this group is supposed to help desperate women but mrs birling is only involved for the social status
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Inspector Calls Themes- Social Class 3

  • Priestly uses the play to reveal the unfairness of the class system- he uses the Birlings as caricatures of all the bad qualities he thought the ruling classes had.
  • The play shows how Priestly saw society, Priestly present the Birlings' arrogant behaviour and selfish attitudes as common to the middle classes.
  • Priestly presents the working class as victims of the class system- the miseries Eva Smith suffered were probably common.
  • Eva Smith is expected to have low morals but she refuses stolen money when she is desperate 
  • Priestly suggests that class cloud's peoples judgement and people should be judged by what they do not by what class they happen to be in
  • By presenting Sheila and Eric as having changed at the end of the play, turning against the views of their own class, Priestley's saying that class isn't all that matters.

Writers technique- Priestley presentation of Eva as more honourable than the middle and upper classes might have suprised some members of the audience

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Inspector Calls Theme- Young and Old

  • 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.
  • Priestley presents Arthur and Sybil as having very traditional views- they think that they know best and they don't like authority to be challenged. Priestly questions their obsession with social class, he's suggesting that the whole class system is out of touch
  • The younger generation are ambitious, determined and motivated- Eva 'had a lot to say-far to much'. Her courage is why she was sacked.
  • The younger generation are challenging, this threatens Birling who tells them they'd 'better keep quiet'.
  • Because the younger generation learn their lesson there's a chance for an equal and fairer society in the future. 
  • At the end of the play Eric is standing around as if he wants nothing to do with his parent, Sheila too, this shows them being no longer controlled by their parents.
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Inspector Calls Themes-Young and Old 2

  • Gerald is closer in age to Sheila and Eric but he is old in his attitudes, he is a young Arthur Birling- His marriage to Sheila is for business reasons, he agrees with Birling that Eva had to be fired.
  • Gerald also doesn't learn anything. When he's found to have dumped Eva he doesn't seem to feel guilty, at the end he thinks his engagement is back on 'Everything's all right now, Sheila'
  • The fact Gerald is of the younger generation but had old views suggests that a more caring futures isn't inevitable. Priestly is also making a criticism of the upperclass- saying they're set in their ways.
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Inspector Calls Themes- Men and Women


  • Women: Supposed to be obsessed with 'pretty clothes', shopping and weddings, they're protected against unpleasant things, Sheila gets Eva sacked because of jealousy, Sheila is accused of being hysterical ( a state often associated with women at the time)
  • Men: Preoccupied with work and public affairs, Gerald felt it was his duty to rescue Eva from Meggarty, Gerald is allowed to sleep around before his marriage Sheila isn't. There are different rules for men and women
  • The young challenge stereotypes: Eva questioned the decision of her boss, instead of relying on a man to save her eva refuses stolen money, Sheila interrupts and challenges everyone apart from the inspector
  • By the end of the play the stereotypes are ruined, Gerald and Eric get weaker while Sheila gets stronger, Priestley does this to challenge the audiences views of the women
  • Gerald is rejected Sheila, and Eric is revealed to be nervous and lazy with a drinking problem. Birling's authority is undermined, he's panic striken as he speaks his final line- different from the beginning
  • Sheila starts having her own opinions not ones shes supposed to have- 'That's what's important and not whether a man is a police inspector or not'. She has learnt to think for herself
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Inspector Calls Themes- Judgement

  • Inspector Calls is like a morality play (a play to teach people how to behave and were warnings against the dangers of sin)
  • Writer's Techniques- Morality plays focus on the 7 deadly sins-pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth. The Birlings and Gerald represent these sins
  • The inspector represents temporal law not legally but morally

The Inspector

  • The inspector is odd, Sheila says 'theres something curious about him' she asks what he was no who he was
  • His origin in unknown and he appears omniscient- they didn't tell him anything he didn't already know.
  • Priestley deliberately leaves questions about the Inspector unanswered as it increases the mystery

In the end it doesn't matter who the inspector is, he teaches the Birlings a lesson. Gerald, Arthur and Sybil decide it was a hoax, they're relieved that the inspector wasn't real as they think they were let off the hook. Sheila and Eric waver slightly when they find out there was no suicide but they've learnt the important lesson-even if their story didn't have the tragic ending it might have one.

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Inspector Calls Themes-Learning about Life

  • Birling sneers at Eric's private education because he worked his way up-Theme- young and old, this is ironic as it's mainly the older generation who think they know it all
  • Birling thinks no one can tell him anything of use to him, he only listens to Gerald because of his social class
  • Arthur, Sybil and Gerald's arrogance prevents them from changing. They don't see anything wrong in the way they think or act. They believe that they know best.
  • Eric and Sheila are influenced by the inspector, they reject their parents who have refused to learn from the event. They understand the lesson learnt was important not if the inspector was real
  • Sheila changes her personality throughout the play, at the beginning she is selfish, obedient and naive but as the play develops she becomes aware, sensitive and mature
  • One of the reasons the older generation don't change is that they're happy as the working class don't affect them. 
  • The older generation don't think about troubling matter: Prostitution-' I see no point in mentioning the subject' says Mrs Birling, Womanising-'you don't mean Alderman Meggarty?' say Mrs Birling even though she knows, Drinking-'it isn't true' says Mrs Birling when Eric's habit is revealed
  • The older generation do everything they can to avoid changing, they blame they wrongs on others
  • It suits the older generation to think their right, the system works better for them.
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Inspector Calls Themes-Social Responsibility

  • Social responsibility is the Inspector's main focus, this final speech is clear- it is a summary of his lesson about responsibility
  • The inspector wasn't just trying to make the family feel guilty but to make them feel aware of the difficulties faced by the 'millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths'


  • Priestley was a supporter of socialism, his plays reflect this and criticise the problems caused by the class divide
  • An Inspector Calls tries to make the audience question no only their social responsibility but also how responsible they are for their own actions
  • Priestley uses Birling to promote socialist ideas: During his speech at the star, Birling says the whole world will have 'peace and prosperity except Russia'. Russia became a socialist state in 1917 and Preistley was interested in seeing how successful this was in creating greater equality.
  • Birling attacks George Bernard Shaw and H.G Wells who were well know socialist writers during that time- just like Priestley in the 1940s
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Character Profile- The Inspector

  • The inspector arrives unexpectedly, he's an outsider. 
  • The inspector leaves after delivering a speech about social responsibility. 
  • He is described as authoritative and imposing, his presence fills the room.
  • Inspector Goole is: moral 'We don't live alone. We are members of one body', authorative: 'All in good time', Mysterious 'Was it a hoax?', An outsider 'The rude way he spoke to Mr Birling and me- it was quite extraordinary'
  • He is the driving force of the the play. He starts off with a summary of the afternoon's event, he forces more information out of people by bluntly saying what the other characters are trying to skint around, he also reveals new information which heightens the drama, such as when he drops it into the conversation 'that this girl was going to have a child'
  • Calls is a deceptive word, he appears casual and spontaneous but in fact is 'single-minded' and 'calculating'
  • The inspector uses emotive language, he describes Eva as a 'pretty' and 'lively' girl, these words make the audience more sympathetic towards her. This sympathy is strengthened by the harsh tone used to describe her death, he says she's now 'with a burnt-out inside on a slab'.
  • He answers his own questions, if he's not happy with someones answer
  • He follows up questions with more questions until he has pieced together a confession
  • He's blunt, 'You're not even sorry now, when you know what happened?' and is prepared to ask personal questions 'were you in love with her?'
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Character Profile-The Inspector 2

  • The inspector's timing is crucial, Priestly has the inspector ring the bell as soon as Arthur says 'A man has to mind his own business'. Birling's announcement summons the Inspector to prove the opposite.
  • The Inspector uses exits as a clever tactic. Leaving Sheila and Gerald alone lets Sheila interrogate Gerald and allows the time for suspicion to break them apart. This makes it easier to get Gerald to confess
  • The inspector's language gets more dramatic, which builds on tension and emotion of the final scene. He claims that if the Birlings don't learn their lesson, they will be taught it in 'fire and blood and anguish'
  • At the end of the play the audience don't know what or who the inspector is
  • He claims he found a 'rough sort of diary' kept by Eva, but her identity isn't certain and the audience aren't sure she existed.
  • It is never revealed why he has so much knowledge, he could be a ghost, or he could represent the spirit of a religious or moral figure. Writer's Technique: The name Goole sounds like Ghoul, Priestley put little clues into some of the character's names.
  • He represents the police and the courts- he's tracking down the truth like in a murder mystery.
  • Eric and Sheila realise that his moral judgement is just as important as his legal power
  • Mr and Mrs Birling don't think he has the authority to tell them off as he's not a police officer
  • Goole has the attitude of a philsopher and the knowledge of a ghost telling a prophesy
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Character Profile- The Inspector 3

  • The Inspector knows how to create an air of uncertainty
  • He makes sure everyone recognizes that he's in charge
  • He 'massively' interrupts which means that he cuts into the dialogue 'with authority'
  • His authority makes people take him seriously and makes everything he says sound more important.
  • The inspector comes from a different world, he doesn't play gold and he's not impressed by Arthur Birling's public profile as former Alderman and Lord Mayor. He talks about taboo subjects like sex and politics.He interrupts, repeats and pauses in ways which were not the norm in middle-class England. He doesn't follow etiquette.
  • He is classless, he seems to come from outside the class system that the Birlings live in. 
  • The inspector doesn't recognise any of the Birlings' ideas about class, he treats everyone the same 'we are members of one body so classes shouldn't ignore each other's needs'
  • Priestley uses the Inspector as a mouthpiece, Priestley's own views are reflected in the opinions of the inspectors. The Inspectors speech to the Birlings could be Priestley's message to the audience. The play and Priestley has a strong message about looking after one another and it's the Inspectors job to deliver it.
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Character Profile- Arthur Birling

  • Arthur Birling is: ambitious 'there's a very good chance of a knighthood', business-minded 'a hard headed practical man of business', selfish 'a man has to make his own way', anxious 'there'll be a public scandal-unless we're lucky'
  • He likes to be in control and he keeps reminding everyone he's in charge. e.g. Birling doesn't want to be told what to do and 'angrily' tells the Inspector 'Well-if you don't mind-I'll find out first'
  • Over the course of the play, Birling's authority is undermined. The Inspector reveals Birling as an ambitious, anxious man who'll ignore the needs of others to keep up profits and a good reputation.


  • Birling hints his company could merge with the larger company owned by Gerald's father, he see's his daughters marriage like a business deal and hopes it'll bring 'Lower costs and Higher prices'
  • Birling thinks he is successful because he's a 'hard headed,practical man of business'
  • He is very optimistic about the future, he thinks that strikes won't be a problem for his company and  dismisses any fear of was as just some 'silly little war scares'

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Character Profile- Arthur Birling 2


  • Birling finds it difficult to think about other people, he doesn't believe in 'community and all that nonsense'. He see's other people as 'cheap labour'
  • Birling is selfish and self centered, he'd rather pass of the Inspector's visit as a hoax or a joke than face up to what he's done.
  • Birling actively makes things worse for the workers who want higher wages by sacking the ringleaders
  • Birling is a public figure in Brumley and he is obsessed with his status. When his good name is threatened he is terrified and would 'give thousands' to avoid scandal
  • He isn't used to being challenged, the inspector hardly speaks before Birling shows 'a touch of impatience' 
  • Birling's family is falling apart. He blames the Inspector for making a 'nasty mess' of the night's celebrations.
  • Underneath is veneer, Birling is an anxious man, he desperately tries to win the Crofts' approval by talking about a knighthood and by getting Gerald's father's favourite port.
  • Birling tries to make himself seem important by drawing attention to his connections with influential people e.g. playing gold with the Chief Inspector

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Character Profile-Sybil Birling

  • Sybil Birling has traditional values. She strictly follows the rules of etiquette because she a good reputation for being polite will improve her family's status.
  • She is prejudiced- she has strong beliefs about people's social status, 'As if a girl of that sort would ever refuse money' 
  • She's prepared to be cruel to preserve her status, ' I used my influence to have it refused'
  • Sybil is Mr Birling's social superior, she tells him off for saying the food was good in front of a guest (it wasn't polite to mention the cook or servants)
  • Sybil's social standards make her prejudiced against people from a lower class, the thinks that they have lower standards and can't imagine her son being involved with a women 'of that sort'
  • Her 'standards' make her walk into the Inspector's trap when he asks her who she blames for Eva's suicide.
  • Even though she was the one who refused Eva, she blames her son therefore condemning him.
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Character Profile-Sybil Birling 2

  • Sybil Birling supports charity, but she is not charitable.
  • She uses her influence in Brumley's Women charity to convince the other members of the board to reject Eva's appeal because she's offended by Eva using her name.
  • Mrs Birling is self-centred, she doesn't notice her son's alcoholism and dismisses her daughter's worries about Gerald
  • She takes no responsibility for her actions, 'I accept no blame at all'
  • She doesn't learn from the Inspector's message, she only regrets not having 'asked him a few questions'- she wants to be in control

Stage Direction

  • The stage directions say Mrs Birling answers 'haughtily', 'very sharply' and 'bitterly'
  • In Act 3, Mrs Birling repeatedly tells everyone that she'd already guessed it was a hoax. The script says she 'Triumphantly' told everyone she knew all along. It's more important to her that she comes out on top, than that her actions could of caused a girl's suicide
  • In the final moments of the play, Mrs Birling is 'smiling' and telling everyone to feel as 'amused' as she is by the evening's events. This suggests she has already put it all behind her.
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Character Profile- Sheila Birling

  • Sheila is different from her family, she is quick witted and strong minded, 'I don't believe I will. So you be careful'
  • However, she used to be selfish,'you used the power you had [...] to punish the girl', she abused her status as a wealthy customer at Milwards when she insisted Eva be fired.
  • Sheila is now sensitive and moral,'But these girls aren't just cheap labour-they're people', by the end of the play she has changed for good

Her Language

  • She uses slang expressions like 'squiffy' which remind the audience that Sheila belongs to a younger generation.
  • When she gets the ring she's very excited, and looks to her mother for approval when she says 'Look- Mummy, isn't it a beauty?'
  • She jokes with Gerald, but the stage directions say that she's 'half serious, half playful'. Her childishness might be a way to hide 'serious' concerns about her relationship with Gerald.
  • Sheila behaves childishly at the beginning, but what she learns over the evening makes her feel she has to be herself and break away from her parents.
  • She has wise instincts- she see what the Inspector is doing, and knew Gerald's absence was suspicious
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Character Profile- Sheila Birling 2

  • She's not naive- she knows men use prostitutes and knows about dirty old men like Alderman Meggarty
  • The inspector says she 'isn't living on the moon', and as she says to her father 'I'm not a child'
  • Sheila has moral standards, she knows she used her power to punish Eva but she regrets her actions and is eager to learn from the consequences
  • Priestly uses her as a moral judge at the end of the play- she says 'probably between us we killed her', the others don't get as far as admitting that.
  • Priestley uses Sheila to show there's hope for change in the new generation. 
  • The Inspectors revelations change her for good, she hand Gerald his engagement ring back saying that they are changed people- 'You and I aren't the same people who sat down to dinner here.'
  • Sheila is the character who has evolved the most

Sheila&The Inspector

  • Sheila becomes like the Inspector, She adopts his techniques such as asking lots of questions, revealing Eric's drinking problem, She contradicts and undermines her parents as the inspector does, She shocks Eric by telling him that his mother refused to help Eva- the inspector moves the discussion on quickly by suddenly startling the listeners and sheila does the same.
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Character Profile- Eric Birling

  • Eric is isolated from the rest of the family, he says that no one understands him and he doesn't feel he can talk to any of them
  • Eric deeply regrets his actions, by the end of the play he says he'll never forget what he has learnt
  • He is: irresponsible-'I didn't even remember- that's the selfish thing' , unloved- 'You don't understand anything. You never did' , Sensitive- 'My God- I'm not likely to forget' , An alcoholic- 'I was in that state when a chap easily turns nasty'


  • Priestley's stage directions say that Eric is 'not quite at ease', he's described as being 'half shy' and 'half assertive'. 
  • He interrupts Sheila and Gerald when he 'suddenly guffaws', but he says he doesn't know why he's laughing. 


  • Eric's drunkenness and behaviour represent the dark side of family life
  • He's a heavy drinker. This is shown in Act 3, in the way he pours his whiskey.
  • He got a prostitute pregnant- his first encounter with Eva ended with her getting pregnant which suggest he forced himself on her
  • He stole money from his father to support her.
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Character Profile- Eric Birling 2

  • Eric's secrets are potential dynamite, it they got out and became gossip, then Birlings knighthood, Sheila's marriage and the family's reputation could be ruined
  • Eric is not the only man who uses prostitutes, Birlings 'respectable' friends such as Alderman Meggarty. Meggarty too assaults young women in the town hall, they all behave badly but no one says anything
  • Eric is the only respectable man who's secret gets out because he lacks self-control. 
  • Eric's laugh interrupts the polite conversation, it's the same when his behaviour disrupts the polite middle-class illusion of respectability, they're keeping up appearances but Eric's making it obvious that there's something bad underneath  

Villain and Victim 

  • Eric feels isolated and unsupported- he had to find comfort somewhere else
  • He shouts at his mother, 'You don't understand anything. You never did. You never even tried-' perhaps he's right.
  • He is a villain but he accepts responsibility for what he did- 'the fact remains that I did what I did'. He criticises his parents for pretending nothing's happened- 'You lot may be letting yourselves out nicely'

Theme Family Life- Birling seems disappointed in his son and gets on better with Gerald, the must be a crushing blow for Eric

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Character Profile- Gerald Croft

  • At the start of the play, Gerald seems to be a good catch. But it turns out Gerald has been lying when he confesses he had an affair with Eva.
  • Gerald is: Respectable- 'the easy well-bred young man-about-town' , Upper class- 'landed people and so forth' , A liar- 'I wasn't telling you a complete lie' , Traditional- 'I should says so' (Gerald agreeing with BIrling)


  • Gerald has got a bright future, he's wealthy, handsome and about thirty
  • He's from an old county family- unlike the Birlings. He's their social superior
  • He works for his father's firm 'Crofts Limited', he's likely to take this over when his father retires.
  • Gerald is a younger version of Arthur Birling, Gerald agrees with Arthur on politics and women, he supports Arthur sacking of Eva- 'You couldn't of done anything else', he's business minded, he and Arthur are the ones determined to take action at the end to find out who the Inspector was.


  • Priestley makes Gerald sound less passionate than Sheila:
  • He's the first character to use the word 'hoax'- he's very keen to prove the Inspector was a fake and clear everyone's names
  • At the end of the play he says 'everything's alright now, Sheila', he doesn't seem to have learnt his lesson.
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Character Profile- Gerald Croft 2

  • Gerald thinks he hasn't done anything wrong, he says that Eva 'didn't blame me at all'
  • The Inspector isn't too harsh on him because Gerald 'had some affection for her and made her happy for a time', he was positive on Eva's life.

Theme social class- Gerald still treated Eva badly because of her social class, he kept her as a mistress for his own pleasure and discarded her when it suited him

Bad or Good

  • Gerald is a complex character, he isn't bad or good.
  • Gerald is confident but also stubborn- he doesn't learn much about himself over the course of the play. 
  • He's a hypocrite: the inspector asks Gerald is women should be protected against unpleasant and disturbing things and Gerald says yes, however it's people like Gerald who are doing the unpleasant things to women. 
  • Gerald unlike Eric has the ability to separate his public, respectable image from secret, private acts.
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Character Profile-Eva Smith

Who is she?

  • The identity of Eva Smith/Daisy Renton is never revealed, she could be the same person or different people who are treated the same by the Birling's.
  • Eva is: attractive- ' young and fresh and charming' , honourable- ' she didn't want to take any more money from him' , Working class- 'Girls of that class' , A Prostitute- 'There was some woman who wanted her to go there'
  • The Birling's take away Eva's source of income

Theme Social Class: Eva lost all these form of support because other people used their power to move her on or have sex with her. Each of them felt superior to Eva because of their social class


  • Priestley has made Eva a silent ofstage character, so in the play she represents the silent, invisible and powerless members of society
  • Inspector Goole speaks for Eva and uses her as a symbol of the powerless working class to teach the Birlings about social responsibility and to make them realise their mistakes.
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Character Profile- Eva Smith

Eva Smith is a sort of Everyman

  • The identity of Eva Smith is a kind of jigsaw portrait of an ordinary working-class girl, only you don't know if the pieces fit.
  • Her first name 'Eva', is similar to Eve- the first women and so is symbolic of women
  • Her second name 'Smith', a very commen last name and it's from the word for tradesman

Central to the message of the play

  • Inspector-'There are millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left' and that their chances of happiness are 'intertwined with out live'. The inspector is saying to behave responsibly towards others
  • The focus of the play is the life and death of an unidentified and unseen woman, Eva is a mix of the people they treated badly.
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An Inspector Calls on the Stage 2

The Set

All the action takes place in the Birlings' dining room- so the whole play can be staged using one set. Priestley's design helps make the atmosphere of the play seem more claustrophobic and intense. The room's like a kettle, just about to boil. It emphasises the Birlings' private and self-centered lifestyle and highlights the unwelcome arrival of the Inspector who brings bad news from outside.

Warning Signs

There are warning signs from the beginning of the play. 

  • The actor playing Sheila should follow the stage directions 'half serious, half playful' to make it clear that although she's joking with Gerald, she's not convinced he's telling her the truth about last summer.
  • The actor playing Eric needs to balance his performance as a troubled, regular drinker, so that he doesn't seem too sober, but doesn't seem to drunk. This unsettles the audience because it's clear that somethings not right.
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An Inspector Calls on the Stage 2

The Look of the Play

The play takes place in one room- suggesting the characters have closed themselves off from the world, with their close-minded behaviour.

The lighting is 'pink and intimate' at the start, as if Birlings are looking through 'rose tinted glasses'. But it becomes 'brighter and harder' when the Inspector arrives- as if a spotlight is turned on their cosy world.

The Birlings' and Gerald look wealthy. This should be clear from their clothes and furniture. It's part of the image they present to society. In contrast, Inspector Goole looks relatively plain.

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Dramatic Techniques in An Inspector Calls


Priestley paces the action to build tension and create conflict. At the beginning of Act 2, the audience expects the story to move on to Gerald's confessions, but instead, Priestley delays the action by shifting the audience's attention to Sybil and Sheila. This increases the audience's curiosity.

Priestley also increases tension by having the Inspector release info bit by bit. He shows to photo to one person at a time and positions himself so the others can't see-the characters, like the audience are kept on their toes.

Entrances and Exits

An exit can signal a character escaping someone or something-e.g. Sheila runs offstage when she realises she's the reason why Eva was sacked. She wants to leave the intense atmosphere- but she's also running away from telling her story. The inspector uses exits to help draw information out of the other characters e.g. he leaves Sheila and Gerald alone to discuss Daisy Renton. The front door bangs every time someone leaves or enters the house. The characters on stage and the audience hear this- and wonder who's coming and going. 

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Dramatic Techniques in An Inspector Calls 2

Beginnings and Ends

Priestley freezes the action between Acts to create tension.

  • Act one ends with the Inspector asking 'Well?'. Act two opens with the same moment. The audience will wonder about the answer to his question during the break, which builds the suspense. 
  • The end of Act Two is another cliffhanger. The front door slams, annoncing Eric's return, but Priestley makes the audience wait until Act three for Eric's confession.
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The Language of An Inspector Calls


The Birlings' use words that were popular with middle-upper class people in 1912:

  • Words such as 'chaps' and 'jingo' help show the characters' social class. It also suggests that the characters feel comfortable with each other- they're using the language of their social group
  • Some slang words were popular with the younger generation but weren't used by their more old fashioned parents. Sybil is shocked when Sheila says 'Squiffy'
  • Birling sees the world as a businessman views his company. When Birling realises the Inspector's visit was a 'hoax' he uses business language to describe being fooled; 'an elaborate sell!'. The fact that his language links sales with tricks suggests he might not be an honest businessman either.

Inspector Goole's Language

The Inspector doesn't mess about He speaks his mind- e.g. he says Eva/Daisy was burnt 'inside out' by disinfectant/ This contrasts with Birling's long waffly speech at the beginning of Act one

The inspector uses plain and direct language, he only says what he needs to- there can't be any confusion. He also uses silence- he has a 'disconcerting habit' of staring for a while at a person before he speaks to them. The older Birlings find him offensive because of his manner and language- he is 'rude' and 'impertinent'

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The Language of An Inspector Calls


Sheila's language changes throughout the play. At the start of the play Sheila uses simple and childish language e.g. she says 'i'm sorry daddy', when she's admiring her ring instead of listening to her father.

By the end of the play she's confident and assertive. She uses simple, plain and sometimes blunt english, just like the Inspector e.g. 'we drove that girl to commit suicide'

She directly disagrees with her parents. She tells them they're wrong to think the Inspector was a 'joke' and points out that they 'began to learn something' before they decided it was a hoax.

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Language Techniques in An Inspector Calls


Priestley uses dramatic irony to influence the audience. It seems as if the Inspector is omniscient (he knows everything).

Priestley gives similar power to the audience. He set the play in 1912, but the play was first performed in 1945. The audience know that a lot of what Birling dismisses in his speech actually happened.When the audience know more than the characters, it's called dramatic irony.

There's more irony in Act 1, Birling talks about getting a knighthood unless there's a 'scandal'. He jokes 'complacently' but the plays title reveals that something will happen.


  • The Birlings use euphemism to hide what they really mean. 
  • Eva 'went on the streets where she led 'another kind of life' becoming a 'women of the town'. These are euphemisms for being a prostitute
  • To Mrs Birling, Eva is a 'girl of that sort' and is in a particular 'condition' (pregnant)
  • The Inspector doesn't use euphemisms, his language is more direct.
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Language Techniques in An Inspector Calls 2


The Inspector uses graphic imagery to shock- the words 'burnt her inside out' create an image that distresses Sheila and the audience.

The Inspector's final speech uses imagery from the Bible, this makes the inspector sound like a religious figure:

  • 'We are members of one body' is an idea found in the Bible, the inspector uses similar phrasing to suggest we have a sacred duty to care for one another
  • The words 'fire and blood and anguish' sound like the end of the world described in the Book or revelation, where 'fire mingled with blood' rains down-people are punished for their sins.
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Analysis of Act One

The Birling's are having an engagement part. Everyone is content, they are Priestley's idea of a perfect middle class family. However there are hints on conflict, the Crofts are more established and socially superior. This make Arthur anxious. Gerald says he was busy with work last summer, but Sheila's nnot really satisfied with that answer 'Yes, that's what you say.'

Birling lectures the young men about War and Business. Arthur Birling's confident about the future for his family and business. He gives a speech with his predictions of the future, but the audience of 1946 knows what's coming and Birling is wrong.

Priestley uses dramatic irony to make Birling look overconfident. It make the audience think that Birling might be wrong about lots of other things, such as his belief in the motto 'Every man for himself' 

The Inspector gives a blunt account of Eva Smith's death. The harsh language, 'Burnt her inside out' contrasts violently with the polite and playful atmosphere at the start. The Inspector catches the Birling's offguard

The Inspector shows a photograph to Birling but doesn't show it to either Gerald or Eric. This is important because Gerald later suspects that each person was shown a different photograph.

The Inspector gets Birling to tell the story of why he sacked Eva, this gives Birling a false sense of being in charge for a bit. The workers at Birling's factory went on strike after Birling refused a pay rise. He wanted to protect his profits and prevent another strikes, so h sacked the 'ring-leaders' including Eva Smith. This story has a political element, Priestley's positioning the rights of the workers against the interests of the businessman.

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Character Profile- Arthur Birling 3


Priestly uses stage directions and careful language choices to help create Birlings character:

  • Priestley writes that Birling should be 'provincial in his speech', accent and social class were closely linked so it would be clear that Birling was a middle-class businessman rather than upper class.
  • Birling has the most continuous speech in the play- he likes to talk and doesn't like being interrupted, when Eric tries to correct him, he ignores him saying 'Just let me finish, Eric'
  • Birling repeatedly shouts 'rubbish!' to dismiss what other people have said. But he finishes his own sentences with 'of course' to make his own claims seem obvious.
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thank you very much. helps a lot :D thanks!!!

georgia s


No problem!



thank yo






This is so good, helped a lot! Thank you :)

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