The Inspector is strange and has a spiritual air. It is almost as if the Inspector is conjured up by Mr Birling’s “every man for himself” speech, were he states that “a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own”. The inspector could represent a spirit or a religious figure but neither the Birling’s nor the audience know. The props used on stage help to indicate what a prosperous family the Birlings are. The huge clock indicates the importance of the time. The mirror is a metaphor for looking back at yourself, and is used by several characters as they talk about past meetings. The set is stuffed with props which gives an oppressive feel.
All the action takes place in the dining room. This room acts as a cocoon which closes the Birlings off from the real world. The lighting in this scene is warm and pink, this reflects the mood of the characters. The lighting changes when the Inspector appears, it becomes colder and harder and resembles a spotlight. The Birlings and Gerald Croft are wearing expensive elegant evening clothes. Whereas, the Inspector is wearing a ‘plain darkish suit’, which highlights the contrast between the characters.
The inspector builds up tension by making lots of delays. The way the inspector only allows one character at a time to see the photo of Eva shows that the inspector dictates the speed of how the story is unveiled, this is ironic because the Birlings, who are used to being in power, have no control over the evening events and the inspector. J B Priestly creates suspense by having crucial entrances and exits, when the door bangs both the characters on stage and the audience wonder who it is.
The beginnings and ends of the acts are dramatic moments. When act one ends the inspector ‘slowly opens’ the door and we suspect that the inspector has overheard Gerald’s partial confession. At the end of act two the family realise that Eric is deeply involved with Eva’s death. The inspector holds up his hand and everyone on stage and in the audience, is silent and looks towards the door. Eric enters. At the close of the play the Birlings and Gerald are relived and begin to congratulate themselves that they have avoided a scandal. Mr Birling feels ‘triumphant’ and ‘jovial’ when suddenly the telephone ‘rings sharply’. After a moment’s silence, Birling reveals that a dead body of a girl has been found and an inspector is about to call. The play has a great deal of anticipation and excitement for the audience and the characters on stage.
One important theme of the play is hypocrisy. The upper classes believed that it didn’t matter what you did as long as nobody found out. The only thing Mr and Mrs Birling are concerned about with Eva’s death, is the possible public scandal that could come out and the fact that Eric stole money from them. Mr Birling sees himself as the victim and that the main disaster of the night is the possible scandal and loss of his knighthood. The Birlings have learnt nothing about social responsibility and by the end of the play they can still regard the plight of a young woman as a ‘joke’.
On the other hand, both Eric and Sheila show great remorse for what they’ve done and can see that the fate of all social classes is connected. J B Priestly believed that everyone had responsibility for each other. He was a socialist and at the time when this play was written and performed there was about to be a general election. He wanted people to ask themselves what sort of world they wanted to live in. He hoped that this play would help them make up their mind. I think that An Inspector Calls is a good play because it has many twists and turns in the storyline and also the audience can get involved with the play, thinking about what’s going to happen next.
Is the play still relevant today? I think it is because there will always be people like Mr Birling, who only care about themselves and never help anyone else. Whereas, the younger generation, like Eric and Sheila, can change themselves and the future. A lot can be learned from this play. I would recommend you go and see this play.