In the play ‘An Inspector Calls’ the Birling family and Gerald Croft are celebrating Gerald and Sheila’s (the daughter of Mr and Mrs Birling) engagement. Later during the night an inspector arrives (Inspector Goole) to question the Birlings about a recent suicide of a girl (whose name is Eva Smith, but later she changes it to Daisy Renton) who worked in Mr BIrling’s works.
This led to everyone (all of the Birlings and Gerald) finding out that each of them had played a part in this girl’s suicide. This play was written in 1945, but takes place in 1912. Furthermore this play conveys Priestley’s (the writer) socialist views on multiple occasions, this may be so that he could point out the flaws in capitalism. During Act two, Mr Birling says “You’ll apologise to me at once… I’m a public man” to the Inspector, and he replies (massively) “Public men, Mr Birling, have responsibilities as well as privileges.” In this excerpt the Inspector has gained a large amount of power and control over the current (at that specific time) situation.
Also this is not the first (neither is it the last) time that Mr Birling was interrupted mid-thought. As well as that it is fascinating that the writer is pointing the finger of blame at Arthur Birling for not only his actions against Eva, but his failure to see that his position as a ‘public man’ which entails a duty towards others, the Inspector essentially is reminding Mr Birling of his responsibilities as a ‘public man’ and is possibly trying to put him in his place. Entrancingly this attitude of Mr Birling draws upon the notion of the upper class taking an obligation for the wellbeing of the lower middle to low classes, conversely, the newer (and more democratic) life in Britain, the ‘public men’ are not undoubtedly of higher social class even supposing that they have more public privileges; anyhow with great power comes great responsibility.In the stage directions in Act one (when the Inspector first arrives on stage) it says “..
. he speaks carefully, weightily, and has a disconcerting habit of looking hard at the person he addresses before actually speaking.” In excerpt, the stage directions make it seem that the Inspector is quite intimidating, due to the fact that he ‘looks hard’ at the person he is going to address before actually addressing them. This may also make it seem that the Inspector is quite professional at his ‘job’ (although it later turns out that he was never a police inspector) and that he may the type of person who prefers to take control over situations, as he may not pay attention to someone talking if he is about to talk/interrogate someone else, possibly leading to him controlling most of (if not all) the situation.
Also during Act one, the Inspector replies to Mr Birling’s statement (that he should not allow for employees to get a pay rise, as they later will ask for the Earth) by saying “They might. But after all it’s better to ask for the earth than to take it.” Here it may be that the Inspector could be talking about being in such a position where ‘the earth’ was taken from him, form personal experience as he seems mildly agitated with Mr Birling’s judgement to expel a worker from -his works- as a result of asking for more pay, as the ‘industry standards’ would be quite low for the worker/s to survive.
As well as that Mr Birling proclaims that Britain is a ‘free country’ and could go work for somewhere else, showing that he is not responsible as a ‘public man’ and is abusing his power as he does not care for the wellbeing of his workers by rather discharging the workers and possibly putting them into extreme poverty (as they most likely were already quite poor, due to their job which was working in a factory) as it is later stated by Eric that it is not a free country if you are not able to go and work somewhere else, as to which the Inspector agrees (as stated earlier that he may be speaking from personal experience).At the start of the the ‘interrogation’ (in Act one) the Inspector describes the severity of the moral crime committed by the Birlings and Gerald, when he exclaimed “…
what happened to her then may have determined what happened to her afterwards, and what happened to her afterwards may have driven her to suicide. A chain of events.” This not only describes the moral crime that was committed, but also informs the audience that this was the star of a chain of reaction as a result of what happened to her earlier (her getting fired from Mr Birling’s works) being the start of a downhill section of Eva’s life.
Also after this Mr Birling did not want to take any responsibility for his actions as he believed that “If we were responsible for everything that happened to everybody we’d have anything to do with, it would be awkward, wouldn’t it?” This mindset of his does not change throughout the play, unlike Sheila and Eric who feel responsible for their actions. In conclusion the Inspector plays an imperative part in ‘An Inspector Calls’ as he puts characters in their places (for example, Mr Birling) and describes the severity of the moral crime committed by the Birlings and Gerald.