Before the inspector arrives the Birling family are celebrating the engagement of Sheila Birling and Gerald Croft over dinner. Mr Birling, and Gerald are having a conversation about politics during. This being 1912 the women leave the table (Mrs Birling and Sheila), as it is ‘not there place to talk about politics’. During the conversation topics such as talk of a world war, the titanic setting sail and the suffragettes.
During this conversation Mr Birling lets his views about these be known and as this play is not written until 1946 the audience already know what happened about a world war and the titanic. Mr Birling’s personalities in this part of the play are for the first time shown and his. The writer makes sure that his personality comes across very poignantly. This part of the play tells us a lot of things such as the time the play is set in and women’s standings compared to men. It shows how Birling feels about other people and his viewpoint on political subjects and the enhancement of technology. Priestly (the writer) is reminding the audience that the play is set in 1912.
Then the inspector arrives and the atmosphere changes almost immediately. When the inspector first enters the room he plays the part of the catalyst. This is almost immediately shown by the reaction of Eric who before the inspector arrives is very relaxed and is drinking and making conversation, when he hears that an inspector is at the door he becomes “uneasy”, as quoted in the stage directions and becomes worried and he becomes very serious, “well, I don’t think its very funny”, he says to Gerald after he made a comment. The stage directions say that the Inspector should create an “impression of massiveness”. This shows that the inspector is meant to cause a feeling unease and unrest within the over characters.
After the ‘catalyst’ inspector comes the spirit inspector. In this character the inspector gives the impression he is not human, you can see this through parts of his speech and his style of questioning, another why of viewing him as a spirit is the how his entrance has a massive impact on the atmosphere in the room and the effect it has on the other characters. The fact that the Inspector knows so much about the relationships between the family and Eva Smith gives out a sign of him being a spirit. The Inspector also knows a lot about how Eva Smith feels even though he apparently didn’t know her, in parts of his speech he talks as if he knows her e.g. “No. She wanted to end her life. She felt she couldn’t go on any longer”. The inspector could also be an impostor that is trying to set up the Birlings and Gerald
The play gives an idea that the Inspector is a fraud by the way he questions them. He questions them one by one instead of them all at once, and he also only reveals the picture one at a time to each character, this could mean that he already knows what they are going to say and does not want them to lie during the future interview he will have with them. First he reveals the picture of Eva Smith to Mr Birling and tells him he once employed her. He is honest about the fact he employed her, but the Inspector always seems to be one step ahead of Mr Birling and all the other characters.
The Inspector always manages to get the secrets and revelations out of the family and Gerald. This seems strange, as he knows all about the family this implies he is not a real inspector. The ending of the play is a practically proof that the inspector as the Birlings begin to suspect something and Mr Birling finds out there isn’t an inspector Goole on the force and then the Birlings get the phone call that tells them that a young women has killed herself and an inspector is on their way round to question them about it, This pretty much shows he is a ghost or even fraud, But the ending makes it clear that the whole inspection has been a hoax and not real. The ending leaves the audience guess what the inspector really is it is a cliffhanger.
The Inspector finally plays the part of a social conscience for the family he gives them hints of how they should think and makes them regret how they acted he uses this on Sheila especially he quotes, “think about the consequences of your actions” he does this with most of the family and acts as a conscience for them. This gives more of an impression of him being a ghost, because he knows how to make the family regret what they did.
The Inspector manages to break up the Birlings and Gerald altogether. He leaves the play with the family almost hating one another and arguing. It is as if he went there on behalf of Eva Smith to get payback for the way they treated her. The family look to be destroyed by the end of the play. Priestly has put a message across through the play that is to be responsible for your actions, as you will have to face the consequences. I personally believe the inspector is a spirit that has come to destroy the Birlings life and family on behalf of Eva Smith, and he does so successfully.