He is described on his entrance as "need not to be a big man but he creates at once an impression
of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness", meaning he has a large presence in the room.
His attitude confuses the Birlings, who are "bewildered"
as they aren't used to being treated like this.
He seems to know and understand an extraordinary amount: He knows the history of Eva
Smith and the Birlings' involvement in it, even though she died only hours ago. Sheila tells
Gerald, "Of course he knows." He knows things are going to happen - He says "I'm waiting... To
do my duty" just before Eric's return, as if he expected him to reappear at that exact moment.
On a symbolic level the Inspector is perhaps not human at all; he could be some kind of
ghost. This is perhaps suggested within his own name, Goole. This has obvious
connotations with the word ‘Ghoul’, this also represents the characters mysterious manor.
His mien is detailed as "a man in his fifties, dressed in a plain darkish suit of the period". He also "speaks
carefully, weightily, and has a disconcerting habit of looking hard at the person he addresses before actually
speaking". This shows he is an unassuming, yet frightfully sharp man who shouldn't be dealt with lightly.
Priestley's use of The Inspector
Priestley shows his importance from the start: creating "an impression of
massiveness, solidity and purposefulness" as he is there with a purpose.
Priestley uses the Inspector as his mouthpiece to convey his Socialist and strong anti-capitalist,
anti-bourgeoisie views. He is a mysterious figure for social justice who claims to represent the police. Further
to this, the Inspector is also there to persuade the audience that the pursuit of power and riches is destructive.
The precise nature of his character is left ambiguous by Priestley, and is interpreted in various ways.
The Inspector also transfers Priestley’s views and he shows the difference in social classes at the time. A gap which he wants to
diminish. He illustrates the reason for this in the play, via the Inspector, where he outlines the ways each of the Birlings have
influenced someone from a completely different background and social class. This is the way Priestley viewed pre-war Britain.
In his infamous final speech, he shows how the future of frightening with images of "fire and blood and anguish", which is widely considered as
Priestley is reminding the audience of the two World Wars and Great Depression that had all taken place within 30 years before the play being written.
Priestley gives the Inspector the role of being the conscience of the play, stating "there are millions
and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us" and "we are all one body. The message
Priestley is trying to convey is clear, "We are all responsible for each other" (a key pillar of Socialism).
Priestley creates a cyclical structure in the play as an Inspector calls at both the beginning and the end of play.
The Birlings & Eva Smith/Daisy Renton
He works very systematically; he likes to deal with "One person and one line of inquiry at a time. Otherwise there's a muddle". His method is to
confront a suspect with a piece of information and then make them talk - or, as Sheila puts it, "he's giving us the rope - so that we'll hang ourselves".
He isn't impressed or intimidated by Birling's talk of "honours" and important friends,
speaking in short, matter-of-fact sentences: "quite so" and "(dryly) I don't play golf".
Reminds audience and characters Eva Smith's terrible, slow, painful death: "Burnt her insides out" as
she killed herself. He also calls her a "nasty mess", using sarcasm to highlight the Birling's lack of concern.
He says how "it's better to ask for the Earth than to take it", a mark that shows
how greedy the Birlings are, he is later branded a "Socialist crank" by Mr Birling.
Taking each character individually he, through his questions, gets them to confess their links with the "dead girl". With
Gerald we see how it makes him feel guilty that she loved him and Eric and Sheila accept their responsibility: "I am ashamed".
Towards the end of the play the audience is unsure if there was a policeman as Gerald decides it was "a hoax": "we've been had".
Power & Control
He is a figure of authority. He deals with each member of the family very firmly and several times
we see him "massively taking charge as disputes erupt between them." He is not impressed when
he hears about Mr Birling's influential friends and later cuts through Mrs Birling's obstructiveness.
Early stage directions make it clear this character will reveal truth, lighting
should "brighter and harder". Throughout the play stage directions are
used to show his moral strengths as he "cuts"across Mr Birling.
He controls the photograph, showing each person separately.
Inspector Goole is known for “cutting through massively” which confirms he is very authoritative in
his speech and presence. The Inspector is offensive but fair; he doesn’t give people with higher status’
any advantages or treat them any different "(massively) Public men, Mr Birling, have responsibilities
as well as privileges”; he believes everyone is equal and society should aim to be like that.
After having already asserted his authority upon Mr Birling ("Don't stammer and yammer
at me, man. I'm losing all patience with you") and Mrs Birling ("(sternly) I warn you, you're
making it worse for yourself"), he settles an argument with Eric and Mr Birling: "I don't
want any of it from either of you. Settle it afterwards", clearly asserting his authority.