Inspector Goole

A photo of Inspector Goole
Who is Inspector Goole?

The Inspector arrives whilst the Birling family are celebrating the engagement of Sheila and Gerald. The stage directions state that he 'need not be a big man' but that he must create an 'impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness'. The Inspector investigates each family member one at a time and in doing so, reveals the consequences of their behaviour.

He drives forward the drama, with his questions creating shocking moments and gripping cliff-hangers for the audience. By the end of the play it is revealed that he isn’t actually an Inspector. It is not entirely clear who he is, Priestley leaves it up to the audience to decide. His name 'Goole' suggests a supernatural or ghost like element, and he seems to know what the characters will say before they do - is he the conscience of the audience? Is he the voice of Priestley? Either way he delivers a frightening message when he leaves, that if people do not take responsibility for each other, the world is doomed.

How is Inspector Goole like this?EvidenceAnalysis
ImposingThe stage directions that describe the Inspector give the impression that he is an imposing figure. His tendency to interrupt and control the conversation adds to this impression too....he creates at once an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness.The fact that his presence combines 'massiveness' with 'purposefulness' suggests that the Inspector would be a very imposing figure.
EmotiveWhen he tells the others about Eva Smith's death he leaves in the gruesome details."Her position now is that she lies with a burnt out inside on a slab."This is such a shocking image presented in plain language, it is not surprising that it impacts upon the emotions of the other characters and the audience. The Inspector uses this language intentionally to make the family more likely to confess.
PropheticAs the Inspector delivers his closing speech, he prophesises a terrible future."And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. Good night." The Inspector predicts a hell like future, filled with a nightmarish vision of 'fire' and 'blood'. Priestley experienced war first hand, so some suspect that what he saw in wartime influenced the Inspector's final speech.

Social and historical context

Inspector Goole sheds a light on all the concerns that Priestley had at the time of writing An Inspector Calls around age, gender, class and social responsibility. Priestley uses the Inspector to make the audience question their own behaviour and morality and hopes that they will learn some lessons as the Birlings do. The issues the Inspector highlights are just as relevant to a modern day audience.

Analysing the evidence

quote
But just remember this. One Eva Smith has gone - but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, and what we think and say and do. We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. Good night.Inspector Goole
Question

How does the Inspector’s use of language help Priestley to get his message across to the audience and the Birlings in Act 3?

How to analyse the quotation:

"But just remember this. One Eva Smith has gone - but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, and what we think and say and do. We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. Good night."

  • "there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us" - repetition of millions emphasises his point that Eva is representative of many others.
  • "their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives" - use of emotive words helps us empathise with the victims like Eva Smith.
  • "We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other" - three short sentences have enormous impact and sum up his point very simply and clearly.
  • "fire and blood and anguish" - almost biblical, a terrifying image. Unlike Mr Birling, Inspector Goole's predictions are correct - Britain experiences two world wars. This makes him a more trustworthy character and also emphasises Priestley’s views.

How to use this in an essay:

The Inspector's use of language in Act 3 is very effective in getting his message across to the Birlings and the audience. First he uses repetition 'there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us'. This emphasises how many of these people there are in the world, that this was not just an isolated case. He then uses a number of emotive words 'their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives' and this again makes the audience sympathise with those less fortunate than themselves. He uses short sentences to summarise his point 'We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other'. The language he uses here is very plain, the short sentence sums up the idea that we are all responsible for one another, a message that Priestley wished to convey in this play. Finally, he uses terrifying imagery, he talks about 'fire and blood and anguish'. This is a Biblical picture of hell, of what the world will become if we don’t do as the Inspector says. All these language devices help to make his point effectively and are particularly powerful as this is the final speech by the Inspector.