'Inspector Goole is little more than a staging device to explore the sins of the major characters.'
Discuss the role of the Inspector in the play. Is he more than just a staging device?
Below is a possible answer to this question. It is not a model answer, and has several things wrong with it, but it would achieve a grade A if it was entered as a piece of English literature coursework.
Read through the answer and see if you can understand why it should gain an A.
Here are the criteria it needs to match:
• sustained knowledge of text
• structured response to task
• personal involvement/empathy
• appropriate comment on meaning/style
• effective use of ...view middle of the document...
You'll hear some people say war's inevitable. And to that I say - fiddlesticks! The Germans don't want war.
So even before the Inspector arrives, Priestly cast doubts on the wisdom of Mr Birling in the minds of an audience who are fully aware of the history of the next six years. On closer examination the romantic nature of the evening is suspect as it transpires that Gerald's affection for Sheila is tempered by the fact that their marriage would form a profitable business association between their fathers' firms.
Inspector Goole's intrusion into this smug and self-satisfied circle seems inexplicable at first and his story of Eva Smith's suicide is greeted with impatience by Birling.
Yes, yes. Horrible business. But I don't understand why you should come here, Inspector.
Neither does the audience at first, but Goole's slow unravelling of the connections between Eva Smith and every member of the Birling household forms the central fascinating strand of the plot.
The shape of his investigation is dictated by the needs of the audience rather than strict police procedure. His questions to each member of the family re-tell the events of the final part of Eva Smith's life in chronological order, whereas a more naturalistic approach would have been to start with the events immediately leading up to the suicide and work backwards from there. Goole's statement about his methods could just as easily be about the demands of the drama itself:
It's the way I like to go to work. One person and one line of inquiry at a time. Otherwise there's a muddle.
The chronological approach is also echoed by deepening moral lapses on the part of the Birling household. Birling himself commits the mild sin of greed when he has a disruptive union organiser sacked. Sheila is guilty of little more than a fit of pique when she has the same girl dismissed from her job in a shop. Gerald and Eric both commit fornication, but Eric compounds his sin with drunkenness, theft and getting Eva (now known as Daisy Renton) pregnant. Mrs Birling adds hypocrisy to her lack of Christian charity when dealing with the despairing young woman. All of this storytelling is of course masterminded by Inspector Goole, who gives each character the chance to reveal his or her part in the sordid affair. Sheila begins to understand this when she remarks.
No he's giving us rope - so that we'll hang ourselves.
In the telling of the story then, Inspector Goole is a staging device. Without him and his apparent foreknowledge of the part played by each person in Eva Smith's life, the play would lack any shape or tension. However, we must also add other aspects to this central role.
Just as he is the centre of the plot, the Inspector is the moral centre of the play. During the course of the investigation it does not occur to...