The character of Inspector Goole is the catalyst for the evening’s events and is quite a mystery and fascination to many people. He is described and comes across as able to create ‘an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness… ‘ He speaks carefully, weightily and has a disconcerting habit of looking hard at the person he addresses. I will be carefully looking at how he manages to be so powerful and authoritative, mainly concentrating on the specific language and use of rhetorical speaking that he uses throughout the play.
I will also mention the mystery of whether the inspector was an impostor and look at the broad possibilities, of which he may be, One of the most effective things that the Inspector manages to do is to have large power and control over the other characters and is seen by the reader as an immense man, despite the stage directions clearly stating that ‘he need not be big’. He appears to be ‘massive’ because of the stares he gives people, and how he makes them feel so uneasy. He often stares the truth out of a character by doing so until they admit to have not been sincere with their story.
He has a disconcerting way of speaking, a certain tone and pace of his voice, but also cleverly structures sentences as if he has planned it all out and using rhetorical speaking. He asks question after question, to the Birlings always receiving information but never giving anything, the most striking thing being that he is never once surprised at what he hears, as if he knows everything even before he hears it. On the account for the inspectors knowing and understanding the history of Eva Smith, Sheila says: ‘Why – you fool – he knows. Of course he knows.
And I hate to think how much more he knows that we don’t know yet. You’ll see. You’ll see’ (pg 26) This clearly shows that despite the Birlings being aware that the Inspector already knows everything there is to know, they still pour out the information precisely because of the effect he has on them. He not only asks them to tell him what they did but also guilt trips them by asking them whether or not that is how they would want to be treated. By doing this, the Inspector is attempting to broaden the family’s perspective on their own actions, giving them a chance to realise their own faults.
The showing of Eva Smiths photograph is a useful technique of the inspector, which he uses to trigger the character’s memories of their involvement with Eva and make them relive their experiences. However his methods of showing a photo are rather suspected. He only lets one person see the photo at a time and every time replaces it in his pocket. How do we know it is just one photo, when it could be several photos of different people the family has been involved in and then could be no connection whatsoever? J.
B Priestly has used the photos as a clever tool to heighten the mystery and to keep the audience wondering and so in turn making the play much more dramatic. The Inspector also manages to induce dramatic irony during the last sub plot within in which he prompts Mrs Birling to condemn the father of Eva’s child, which ironically is Eric. Using his method of talking calmly but disturbingly, making the questioned person feel extremely nervous and intruded on, the inspector cleverly induces anger within her, leading to her frequent outbursts of abuse about the father.
Moreover the Inspector also questions Mr and Mrs Birling what should be done with this man, unknown to them, their son: ‘No hushing up, eh? Made and example of the young man, eh? Public confession of responsibility, um? ‘ (Pg 48) He cunningly allows Mr and Mrs Birling to harshly blame the young man, then lets them realise that he is their own son, causing even more terror and destruction to them, then if he had told them straight out. One of his tactics when questioning the Birlings is to ask very many short blunt questions, which cut into the receiver giving them no choice but to answer them, fired one after another.
For example ‘Where did u meet her… what happened then… was she drunk too… why had she gone there’ (Pg 51) Then when he had extracted the necessary information to make them feel completely invaded, he would move on to the next stage, cruel rhetorical questions, meant to guilt trip them and rub in what misery they cause an sorry human being. ‘You’re not even sorry now, when you know what happened to the girl? ‘(Pg 47) The Questioning of an individual person would then be rounded up by a long, dramatic persuasive speech, the most powerful being his exit speech: ‘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… ‘ This speech really sums up the Inspectors reasons for visiting the Birlings and brings out the lesson and he has taught the Birlings, the fact that even the smallest selfish actions can effect somebody more than you could imagine so therefore ‘think before you act’. It also reveals something much darker and haunting, hinting that he knows the path of the future. ‘A time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught in blood, and fire and anguish’
This is extremely powerful and is not directed to the Birlings but to the audience itself, giving them a bold disturbing message. He also emphasizes the importance of thinking and acting as a community, reflecting J. B Presley’s socialist views instructing the audience about the condition of man, caught between the religious need for goodness and the temptations of evil. The many speeches that the Inspector delivers throughout the play, makes the suspicion of him being an impostor, (not a real inspector), grow even more, and he appears more of a prophet come to preach to the Birlings.
A real Inspector would not give such informal, emotion filled speeches; they would just take the information needed and then leave. Whereas he took information, although he obviously already knew it all already, and then involved himself giving his view on their actions, criticising and blaming them. He seems very unprofessional and gets too worked up and emotional on such small things: ‘Don’t stammer and yammer at me again, man. I’m losing all patience with you people’
This is a very unprofessional thing to say and shows that he does not treat the Birlings with the professional respect that should be expected. For dramatic effect he also goes into unnecessary detail of how Eva suffered and at some points gets quite personal and delicate with what he tells the Birlings about her. Again this is very unprofessional. No one will ever know exactly who the Inspector is, whether he is a time traveller from the future, Eva smiths ghost…? And this leaves a great sense of mystery about the play, which I believe is one of its great qualities.