The younger generation
During inspector Goole’s speech he uses contrasting pairs, such as; ‘Hopes and fears’ and ‘We don’t live alone’. By using, this inspector uses both sides of the spectrum to represent both sides of the social classes, it is used in this context to hopefully instil a sense of sympathy of what the ‘Eva smiths’ of the world feel like. By doing this, the Birling family might decide to help the less fortunate to recover from the poverty trap and abolish the social ladder, in which the upper and higher middle classes treats the working class and lower middle class,
Throughout the speech, Inspector Goole uses the first person, For example ‘And I tell you’. By using ‘I’ the inspector portrays a sincere and serious message in the hope that by doing this the Birlings will pay attention and take notice of his message and act upon it. As well as using, ‘I’ Inspector Goole uses well places pauses, through the concept of comma’s. For example, ‘the time will soon come when, if men will not learn’. The comma placed in this sentence gives the inspector time to pause, giving times for his message to sink into the Birlings and the audience, giving them time to contemplate the consequences of their actions.
The sentence variation used throughout the speech and especially at the end is highly effective in producing a dramatic shock to the Birlings and the audience. For the duration of Inspector Goole’s speech a wide variation of sentence, lengths are used ranging from two words, to twenty-nine words. The speech ends with the shortest of all the sentences, containing only two words, ‘Good night.’ This, teamed with the inspector’s abrupt exit has an obvious and powerful effect upon the Birlings. With most stunned and unmoving, the inspector has conjured the desired effect of contemplation out of the Birling family.
During, and after the inspectors speech there is only the Birling family and Inspector Goole present. It is unusual that Gerald Croft and Edna (The Maid) are absent from the scene. After the speech, there is no immediate response or reaction, but there are many stage directions. I think these detailed stage directions could be because J.B. Priestley wanted there to be no sound after the speech to give time for the message to sink in, not only to the Birlings but to the audience as well.
As the inspector delivers the speech, I would have the actor portraying Inspector Goole stand in centre stage. I would do this so that all attention is on him during the speech. The lighting of the stage is also a very important aspect of the staging as it not only creates a mood in the vicinity but also gives the audience a specific point to focus on during the speech. Therefore, I would have the whole stage dimmed with the exception of a bright spotlight on Inspector Goole, who is centre stage at this time.
Before the speech, the Birling family has just been informed of Eric’s part in Eva’s demise. Eric then realises his mother played a part in the death of his unborn child, and therefore gets angry with her. Although this is quite an active scene, Inspector Goole can bring the whole stage to silence during his dialogue. Adding to the already stunned response of the listeners after he has delivered his speech the inspector suddenly turns and walks out. I would have the actor playing Inspector Goole, leave quickly with purpose, large strides and look only straight ahead, as if dismissing the Birling family like a bad smell.
As the inspector leaves the only sound heard is the last of his footsteps fading away, the door being slammed and an uncanny silence. This silence is very effective in getting the Birling family and the audience to think about the meaning behind the speech. This painful silence is broken by Shelia Birling who bursts into tears.
As the inspector leaves the family is left with Inspector Goole’s words ringing in their ears. All the characters are left thinking about their part in Eva Smith’s demise, each taking a different approach with dealing with this. Shelia Birling is left in tears, an obvious sign of remorse. Throughout the play, Shelia has come far, now accepting that she was empty headed. When Shelia realises that her jealousy made Eva lose her job and starting her downward spiral, Shelia is genuinely sorry. I can see this when she bitterly says; ‘I know. I had her turned out of a job. I started it’. This shows she understands what the inspector is trying to say, that she has a responsibility according to the inspectors values and not those of her family.
Mrs Sybil Birling is taken aback by what the inspector has to say, and collapse into a chair after the inspector leaves. This shows that the inspector’s speech has the slightest effect on Sybil, which does not last long as she recovers very quickly when the inspector leaves. This shows how cold and unsympathetic she is. Sybil refuses to see how her own actions could have lead to the girl’s death. This leads Sybil to blame the unknown father for Eva’s death; ‘And if you’d take some steps to find this young man and then make sure he is compelled to confess in public his responsibility’. However, when she finds out the father is Eric; Sybil is hit with a dilemma of morals; defend her own son and family name or defend her initial thoughts. Sybil states; ‘I don’t believe it. I won’t believe it’. This is called denial; it is often the first form of shock while the brain works frantically to come to a conclusion.
Eric Birling is the member of the family, whose life is the most messed up. After the inspector leaves, Eric is left brooding desperately; obsessing over his own drunken thoughts. Not only has Eric stolen from his father but he has also has a drinking problems and has used a poor girl for his own enjoyment. Eric is angry with his mother for not helping the mother of his unborn child. I can see that Eric is almost at breaking point with his mother when he says to her; ‘Then – you killed her. She came to you to protect me – and you turned her away – yes, and you killed her – and the child she’d have had too – my child – your own grandchild – you killed them both – damn you, damn you -‘. All the pauses shown in the play simply demonstrate that Eric is just saying what he feels faster than he can think it. Although Eric has many problems facing him he still feels guilty about the way he treated Daisy Renton (AKA: Eva Smith), but the consequences of what he did only makes him feel worse.
Mr Arthur Birling is the character who is least effected by the inspector’s speech. Although he gives of the impression of remorse by looking gloomy, Arthur is the only character who is moving around after the inspector leaves. This action gives off the impression that Arthur is unfazed by the whole ordeal. This attitude may come from the fact that Arthur does not accept any responsibility for his actions and denies any involvement in Eva Smith’s demise. I know this because Arthur says; ‘Drop that. There’s every excuse for what both your mother and I did – it turned out unfortunately, that’s all-‘. This apparent remorse may come from a different thought. It may come from Arthur’s anxiety, because the engagement has been called off Arthur is worried that his family may not be affiliated with the upper class of the Croft family. He is also scared that he may not get his knighthood if this affair is revealed.
The inspectors affect on the characters leaves an impression upon the audience. J.B. Priestley was trying to get a message across here. That the younger generation; Shelia and Eric, accept their responsibility, but the older generation; Mr and Mrs Birling, do not. This does not matter though because the older generation are stuck in their old fashioned way of thinking but the younger generation can go forth and change the world.
The inspector has many functions throughout the play each one giving more of an insight into why the inspector has called. One of these functions was to make the characters confess their actions and reveal what the inspector already seems to know. After Shelia admits to getting Eva Smith fired from her job at Milwards he has a suspicion the inspector already knew it was her as she says; ‘You knew it was me all the time, didn’t you?’ To which the inspector replies; ‘I had an idea it might be.’
During the stage time the inspector has, he seems to have an air of authority, controlling all speech and movement on the stage. For example; When Shelia suspects she knows the identity of the dead girl the inspector shows Shelia the photograph, which leads to Shelia’s abrupt exit. The inspector wanted to get a reaction from Shelia by getting her to look at the photograph. Shelia gets curious and asks the inspector what this girl looks like; ‘What – what did this girl look like?’ Inspector Goole replies by saying; ‘If you’ll come over here, I’ll show you.’ The inspector has got Shelia to look at the photograph on her own accord, an action he pre-meditated.