Notes on "An Inspector Calls" for GCSE

Essay by Craigy1000High School, 11th grade April 2004

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An Inspector Calls


The drama centres around a group of characters in the same setting. The theme is the effect of an individual's actions over a period of time, their individual and collective responsibility for their actions, and the consequences of them.

The audience and the characters progress from ignorance to knowledge. The setting doesn't change - there's nothing to distract the audience's attention from the unfolding events.

It seems at first to be a straightforward detective thriller. We are introduced to each member of the Birling family and their guest, Gerald Croft, then the Inspector arrives with the news of the death by suicide of Eva Smith. As the involvement of each member of the family is established, the structure becomes a 'whodunnit' with the Inspector unravelling the history of Eva Smith. The audience hear several 'revelations' which lead them to make their own assumptions about who drove Eva to her death.

The audience is left on tenterhooks at the end of each act.

Because the Inspector seems to know everything, the characters are driven to make their confessions and the play becomes a 'modern morality play'. It is possible to see each of the Birlings as guilty to various degrees of the Seven Deadly Sins (pride, sloth, covetousness, gluttony, envy, lust and anger).

The play was popular with the public when it was shown, but some confusion arose over the character of Inspector Goole - was he a real Detective Inspector or a hoaxer? Was he even the embodiment of the characters' conscience? His knowledge makes it uncanny.

The play opens in 1912 and the family are celebrating in a self-satisfied way. Arthur Birling is 'rather portentous', Sybil his wife is 'rather cold', Sheila is 'very pleased with life', Eric is 'half-shy, half-assertive' and Gerald is...