Priestly uses the inspector to represent morality, and how us as a society should be more moral towards each other . I believe the inspector is primarily used to influence the conscience of those watching the play. Through employing the inspector as a dramatic device, Priestly exposes the segregation of the rich and the poor, and the manipulative behaviour that the rich perform upon the poor regarding the prejudice and abusive exploitation the rich deliver on those who are less economically fortunate.
Priestly also uses the inspector to keep the play moving and to retain a constant air of suspense throughout the duration. This essay seeks to highlight how the audience will recognise the inspector as a spirit that speaks the voice of our societies conscience. Act One begins by introducing the characters and establishing the idea of a happy and united family looking forward to the future with a degree of confidence. In retrospect, there are a number of hints that all is not as it seems but these are not particularly obvious until later in the play.
There is nothing to warn us of the shock of the Inspector’s visit. He initially refuses to accept any responsibility for Eva ‘s death, and sees a disconnection between Eva and his himself. With regards to how the inspector addresses each candidate in the house that he wishes to interrogate, he interrogates each character very differently. For example, for the inspector to question a character like Mr Birling he has to first remind the man of social conduct and how to behave in an interview. He has to almost break down Mr Birling’s conscience and rebuild it through the course of the interrogation.
At the commencement of Mr Birling’s interview Mr Birling is unable to grasp the link between actions and consequences, or the wider social and world issues. He is proud of his status and reminds other of it, especially when he attempts to put the Inspector in his place. However as the play continues the inspector uses various techniques to teach Mr Birling respect and social acceptance, but as the play draws to a close, he refuses to accept any responsibility for Eva ‘s death, and becomes increasing annoyed by the Inspector’s questioning.
The fact that the inspector can control people into believing that they’re in the wrong could be interpreted as evidence to suggest that maybe this character is supernatural. The inspector has an overwhelming presence, and has the habit of staring at the candidate before speaking. This confidence to disconcert even the most heartlessness of people could come from being supernatural. The way the inspector treats different people, seems to be decided on how courteous they are to him.
However he never uses rudeness as an excuse to bring his point forward to the person he’s speaking too. I’ve noticed that throughout the play the Inspector manages to retain almost constant patience with the Birling family despite their ignorance and denial. The inspector has the ability to empathize with characters such as Sheila and Eric because he can recognize that they repent of what they have done and are beginning to realize social conduct. Sheila Birling is almost an accomplice for the Inspector; taking up criticism of other characters.
Sheila sees no point in hiding the truth and she is not malicious as Gerald says but simply desires to get the reality of the situation and to have the knowledge that she isn’t entirely to blame for Eva’s suicide. The inspector acknowledges that Sheila is willing to accept new ideas and concepts. The inspector describes this as being impressionable, and says, “we always have more of an impression on the young ones” She is affected by the Inspector’s revelations about family and society and because of this the inspector rewards Sheila with his gratification.
The inspector considers Sheila and Eric to be accomplishments so he treats them with respect. The reactions of the audience are manipulated because new truths are revealed about the family of each character. So over the duration, the picture of the story is built, and is not given away straight away. The alibis of each character are not always in correlation so the audience feels the desire for an explanation of the circumstance. The play evokes thoughts in the audience when dramatic events are revealed like the manipulative antics of Gerald and Eric.
The audience’s empathy and anger moves in sync with the Inspectors thoughts of the family, as both the inspector and the audience come into the realization of things at the same time. The inspector has the ability to convey the emotions of the audience through his words. This is further evidence that the inspector is supernatural. A modern audience would react differently to how a 1940’s audience would react because the opinions upon what is considered lawful and sociably expectable would have evolved. A 1940’s audience would have had a larger array of opinions regarding social conduct compared to today’s society.
As a generalization most wealthy people would not affiliate with the poor, and if they did it maybe only be for them to perform tasks of labor. This is because in the 40’s era most audiences would have contained more aristocratic wealthy business men as these people where more likely to visit the theatres than the poor. This maybe why priestly wrote the play so he could relay his viewpoint. However in a modern society most people now acknowledge social conduct and abide to treat most people courteously regardless of their stature.