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English Literature

Character

Inspector 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 and several times we see him "massively taking charge as disputes erupt between them." He is not impressed when he hears about Mr Birling's influential friends and he cuts through Mrs Birling's obstructiveness.
  • 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" and warns them of the "fire and blood and anguish" that will result if they do not pay attention to what he has taught them.
  • All this mystery suggests that the Inspector is not a 'real' person. So, what is he?
    • Is he a ghost? Goole reminds us of 'ghoul'.
    • Is he the voice of Priestley?
    • Is he the voice of God?
    • Is he the voice of all our consciences?
    • Do you have any other suggestions?

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