The identity of the Inspector is key to the play, as it shows the way the characters have changed after being investigated by the Inspector. Sheila notes her observations to her parents, ” I have an idea- and I had it all along vaguely-that there was something curious about him. He never seemed like an ordinary police Inspector-” Sheila just says this in passing, as it holds no relevance to her, but both Mr and Mrs Birling seize this theory and join in so they can forget about the whole incident. They continue to talk about this theory getting more and more confident that they are correct.
“I mean, they don’t talk like that. I’ve had dealings with dozens of them” Mr Birling’s beliefs about this Inspector are then confirmed as Gerald enters and uncovers more truths about the Inspector. Birling confirms their beliefs by phoning the local police and questioning the identity of Inspector Goole. It is confirmed, the man who came and dragged the truth out of his family was not a police inspector. Birling revels in this information, ” Already we’ve discovered one important fact- that that fellow was a fraud and we’ve been-hoaxed- and that may not be the end of it by any means” He doesn’t care that his family have just been uncovered to be immoral and unethical and very low in the society of principles, all he cares about is the fact that this man wasn’t a police inspector so everything is back to normal, no public scandal shall become of this and that his life is just as good for himself as it was before.
Gerald them questions the girl’s death and if they have had involvement with the same girl. ” All right you all admitted something to do with a girl. But how do you know it’s the same girl” He questions the photograph that the Inspector used, as he thought about the evidence that he could be showing them all a different photo of a girl, because the inspector took control and only allowed one person to see the photograph at a time.
He also debates the fact that the girl changed her name numerous times. How do they know that this was the same girl all along? The Birling parents quickly agree as to get rid of this horrible business and make sure there is no public scandal. Mr Birling sees this as an escape route, to know that he was not made a fool of and his beliefs were not put on trial. He wants closure and he wants to be reassured that some socialist crank did not successfully hoax him. Gerald quickly settles this by phoning the hospital to validate his suspicions about the girl’s death.
“No girl has dies in there today. Nobody’s been brought in after drinking disinfectant. They haven’t had a suicide for months” Birling celebrates this fact, not because a girl is not dead, he celebrates because there is no public scandal and he can get is knighthood, he think it is ” all over now” What he doesn’t realize is what Sheila has comprehended, ” If it didn’t end tragically, then that’s lucky for us. But it might have done” She recognises this and stands up to her father and agues with him “You’re pretending everything’s just as it was before.”
She sees that she, and her family have been exposed for what they were and some of them still are. She sides with Eric and contends against her father and his values that he has. The Inspector has caused all this conflict even though he is no longer there. Somehow I believe that he wanted to be found out, so that the family have to react to something, which will depict their new beliefs if they have any. It will show Sheila and Eric who their family really are and how their beliefs and values damage people. The Inspector has this power over them and he has taught them that his identity is not the important issue here. Before his visit they would have believed the opposite to what they do now.
Finally the phone rings, Birling speaks to the police and tells his family that what the Inspector said was true. “A girl has just died-on her way to the Infirmary-after swallowing some disinfectant. And a police Inspector is on his way here- to ask some- questions.” This is the end of the play. I personally believe the same as Sheila, that it doesn’t matter who the Inspector was and that he discovered information about them that they didn’t want to know. I think that identity of the Inspector doesn’t change what they did and doesn’t change what could have happened even if it didn’t.
I think Priestley chose to do this is to make the audience think how the characters will act with the real Inspector, if they will tell the truth or hide the truth behind closed doors. The audience then have a chance to think about the characters and if they have changed from the Inspector’s visit. It also allows them to judge for themselves who the Inspector actually was. All different people have different views about the Inspector’s true identity. I think that the Inspector was really a relation to Eva’s Smiths, maybe her father. He is a socialist with socialist beliefs and ideals. I believe this because the police would have contacted family first. He could have then visited her in hospital and been given her diary and letters. He then could have decided to visit this family to shake them up and punish them for his daughter’s death, and then could have given the diary and letters to the police to have a real enquiry.
The Inspector has the majority of importance in the play, as he is the delegate for Priestley’s views and beliefs. He is a mouthpiece for him in which he can have his views portrayed perfectly. Priestley is a socialist with certain principles therefore the Inspector is a socialist with these certain principles also. This way Priestley allows the Inspector to be the narrator to the play and the director also. The Inspector is seen to be the one who is honourable and justified.
He is obviously biased towards the Inspector, as it is himself in another form. The Inspector, in a talented way of allowing his views to be aired without actually saying them, he realizes that the play will have more affect on the audience rather than listening to him shrieking his beliefs in the middle of the town. The Inspector gets his views across without the audience realizing fully what he is doing. This is the first role of the Inspector.
The second role links with the first distinctly as it is about what Priestley wanted the Inspector to do, both in the play and the extensive thesis and messages surrounding the play. The Inspector is there to serve a purpose in the play; he is there to question the Birling family (and Gerald) He is there to control situations in the evening by using props such as the photograph as bait to the family, he also gains control by undermining the authority in the house, (Mr Birling and Mrs Birling) and making sure he gets his way and that everything is done to his standards.