Direct the action of the play
Priestley used the inspector as a mouthpiece for his own views. He was a crucial character and the play revolved around key moments and speeches given by him. I believe that the inspector was partially created not only to voice Priestley’s view but also to support Ouspensky’s theory. Ouspensky was a philosopher who believed that you relived your life, over and over again each time making fewer mistakes than the time before.
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You kept on reliving your life until you were the perfect person. Priestley’s interpretations of capitalism and socialism allows the audience to see the benefits of socialism and the flaws of capitalism, he also gives the audience a chance to decide and reflect on their own views. He also states that hope lies with the younger generation (as portrayed by Eric and Sheila Birling and Gerald Croft). However the conversation after the inspector leaves shows that Sheila and Eric are affected by the words of the inspector, but all of the younger generation cannot be changed and some will remain ignorant to each other’s needs.
The use of stage set and lighting is a dramatic effect used in nearly all productions. Conversely the outcome of Priestley’s elucidation was that the lights should begin a soft subtle shade and yet reflect on the family’s hearty celebration. Once the inspector enters the room the lights change to a harsh and bright yellow, this colour is mostly associated with cross-examination and a certain hardness and cold is felt by the audience towards the inspector who should so rudely interrupt the engagement party.
Without the change of light the play would not captivate the audience’s attention or imagination. The use of only one set is a cleverly incorporated device in which it allows characters to exit from the room to go for air. When the characters leave for air those remaining in the room begin to realise and discover more and more about each other, for people all in one family unit they must not talk or communicate as they are shocked by the behaviour of each other.
If I was questioned upon who is to blame for the young girl’s suicide my answer would almost certainly lead to Mrs. Birling. My main reason for thinking that Mrs. Birling is responsible for the death, is not only that she was the last step before Eva ended her life, but because in my eyes she was the most powerful one. Eva was at a time where she was most emotional and she must have been falling desperate as her life had progressed in a downward spiral ever since she lost her job fighting for what she believed in. however she ploughed through, determined to help herself instead of living off hand outs and pity.
When she presented her case to Mrs. Birling she did not expect a miracle but did hope for a little help. When Mrs. Birling refused to help her, she must have felt like the whole of the Birling family was dead set against her. She had missed the last escape route to any sort of life improvement and felt that her campaign to live had failed and would be better off ending the turmoil there. Mrs. Birling followed through her actions with no thought as to the consequences or to the extensive effects upon the young mother to be, which is morally worse.
Then continued to dismiss her mistake after the ‘death’. For the stated reasons I feel that if anyone, she is the most to blame. I also consider that in the productions of “An Inspector Calls”, Mrs. Birling is portrayed as the ‘baddie’, who is disliked from the very beginning of the play, making them jump to their own conclusions about her personality and her possible involvement in the storyline, before the production has even gone underway.
In my opinion, I would strongly agree with, the theatre critic’s comment of “Priestley’s play is unusual in that a character, the inspector, could be said to direct the action of the play.” I realised that the inspector’s authority and integrity allows him to counteract Mr and Mrs. Birling’s beliefs but collaborate with Sheila and Eric Birling. By means of dividing the family’s loyalties he is able to show the audience how the capitalists exploited the country but also how the youth provide the necessary change in values for government and ultimately alter the running of the country.
I believe that the inspector played on the minds of Sheila and Eric for the reason that they were young and vulnerable but this immature faade could just be a camouflage net to hide behind, or a sign of low self a steam, Sheila is continuously being told that she is a “hysterical young girl” by her mother, they were also more likely to take note of what he was saying because the girl was from their generation. They were able to think and open their thoughts to the feelings and actions of Eva Smith.
The definite line drawn between the family leaves Gerald stuck in the middle and somewhat questioned as to where his priorities lie. For example, does he side with his love and future wife or does he side with his future in-laws for the sake of the business arrangement? Instead of making the difficult decision he stands his own ground and agrees with the inspector on some counts but agrees with the capitalist couple in other cases.
The theatre critic was correct in stating that the inspector controls the action in the play. This is because he acts as the puppeteer who directs and rehearses his act until he has the perfect interrogating and intimidating effect. The inspector is the role model for the audience as he respects the views of the family but corrects and points out their faults and times at which they have faltered. People say that it is impossible to change a person’s beliefs or actions to suit themselves. The inspector does not prove that he has the power to change people but simply allows the characters and the audience to reflect and change themselves.
Therefore, to conclude, I agree that the theatre critic was correct and that the inspector does direct the action of the play to give a sense of authority and order during the investigation. However, I believe that if even a minor detail of the inspector’s character was altered in any way shape or form, the dramatisation of the harsh and hard hearted way in which the inspector voices his opinions and forces himself upon the characters’ minds, that the message would not be brought across in as successful manner. I think that Priestley was certain about the way in which the play was conducted and that is why he went into such detail about the mood and atmospheric changes throughout the play.