The inspector from An Inspector Calls is a peculiar character shrouded in mystery. He is at the very centre of the action that takes place in the play and his role is hugely important in this. He has various purposes, represents several themes, and has an interesting persona. Therefore, understanding the character of the inspector is key to understanding the entire premise of the play. Let us thus look at some key facts about the inspector and do a character analysis. All quotes used in this post come from the play mentioned and do not belong to me. For an explanation of the ending of the play, check out this post: An Inspector Calls: Ending Explained. You can also check out the character analysis of Mr Birling.
Who is the inspector?
The character’s name is Inspector Goole. Quite a strange name if you think about it. It may even be a play of words used by Priestley to sound similar to the word ghoul (a ghost). This may have the effect of emphasising his supernatural status. Is he a real person or a supernatural entity in the play? That question is answered above in the linked post.
How is the inspector presented (Character analyis)?
This list of bullet points should make for an easy summary:
- Inspector Goole is mysterious and seems to know a lot about every other character (like a narrator).
- He is powerful and unafraid of social norms or shedding light unto the misdeeds of others. Keep in mind that with an actual play, lighting, stage directions and scenery play a big part in portraying a character’s purpose. The stage lighting changing to ‘brighter and harder’ shows how he is here to uncover their dark secrets. He shows up the Birlings’ lack of of compassion and hypocrisy.
- He seems to go beyond the normal role of a police officer. He presents himself with a lot of authority and is rather judgemental, though he is of a lower class than the Birlings. He does not care about social conventions or class. He causes rifts to be created among them and looks at them rather ‘coolly’. He creates conflict.
- Purpose: to present socialism through showing how society should care about every member. He presents the issue of morality and doing what is right.
- There is no one called Inspector Goole at the police station and creates confusion at the end of the play. This is to make the characters and reader/audience think about the issues presented.
The theme of social Class
Priestley wanted to present how capitalistic societies lack compassion and care for ostracised individuals in society. He wanted to present the importance of socialism and issues with social class in society. Here are some key quotes to show how Inspector Goole is key in this.
- ‘We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other’. The rule of three is used here to emphasis his point and to unite all members of society.
- The inspector wants to get to the heart of the matter when it comes to dealing with social issues and does not tolerate nonsense: ‘Don’t stammer and yammer at me again, man. What did she say?‘ The emphasis shown in the last sentence shows his impatience with the family’s lack of humility and their lack of desire to be upfront.
- The inspector is disguested by the ‘cheap labour’ use of the poorest in society, including working class girls.
If you are studying the play, this should be a good start to understanding the inspector’s character. If you were simply interested in the character then maybe this post has answered some of your questions.
What do you think about the inspector? Did the play end satisfactorily for you?