An Inspector Calls is a fascinating thriller by J. B. Priestley with an even more mind-boggling ending. Have you ever wondered what the ending meant? Or who the inspector is? The story is engaging and gradually works its way up to the climactic ending. But after reading it, I felt both exhilarated and baffled. Below are some thoughts on the ending. For an analysis of the character of the Inspector, check out my post An Inspector Calls Character Analysis: Who was the Inspector? You can also find more information on the dreaded Mr Birling and capitalism on one of my posts.
So what is the ending of An Inspector Calls and how it be explained?
The Inspector leaves the Birlings who then take it upon themselves to call up the police force to inquire about an Inspector Goole. However, no such person exists according to the police. The older Birlings breathe a sigh of relief, thinking that it was all a big prank, whilst the younger members think on the errors of their ways. Just then, Arthur Birling receives a telephone call from the police informing them that a young girl had died and that the police were on their way to question them. The Birlings have not gotten away with it after all!
The question is, what on Earth was going on? There are several ways of looking at it.
- The Inspector was a supernatural being (kind of like the ghosts who visit Scrooge in A Christmas Carol) who took it upon himself to show the Birlings the error of their ways and to get justice for Eva. This can be explained by the Inspector essentially knowing that the Birlings would be questioned and the fact that Eva had not yet been found when the Inspector came to question the Birlings.
- It doesn’t matter who or what the Inspector was. It was all just a plot device to make the reader think about the social issues. The Inspector may not have even been a real person. He could just be a symbolism of justice against the suppression suffered by the lower classes.
- Crazy theory here and quite dark, but if you look at it from a completely different angle you could say that the Inspector was in on it. Think about it, some random guy shows up, guilt trips the Birlings into thinking that they are guilty of something. The guy disappears and next thing you know, the police are calling about Eva. The so-called Inspector knew about Eva before anyone else did. Could he have somehow been involved and covered it up to look like something else?
I’m more inclined to go with the first two theories. Either way, An Inspector Calls has a powerful message and the ending with the Birlings not getting away with it makes for a very good one.