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An Inspector Calls - Inspector Goole and Sheila

In: English and Literature

Submitted By MaiaW
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An Inspector Calls

When we are first introduced to Inspector Goole, he gives us the impression of being a very imposing figure. We can see this with one of his first stage directions “(cutting through, massively)”. Not only does the inspector permit himself to interrupt Mr. Birling, who is an important figure in society, but also does so massively. By using this adverb, J.B. Priestley creates an overpowering, imposing, and important image of the inspector, also emphasizing the power that the inspector already has over Arthur Birling. Secondly, the inspector manages to contradict Birling’s orders, imposing his own rules in their house. When Arthur Birling tells Sheila to “run along”, the inspector imposes himself and says, “(n) o, wait a minute, Miss Birling.” Once again, this quote has connotations of authority and superiority, encouraging the reader to understand how much importance to give to this man. Knowing that, during the time the play was set in, women weren’t as respected as they are now, this quote could also be controversial. First of all, Inspector Goole disrespects Mr Birling, who is the man of the house, by making his own daughter disobey his rules. Furthermore he speaks politely to Sheila unlike her mother, who calls her a child (on p 185), and calls her Miss Birling, which is a sign of respect. Finally, when the Inspector, with the help of a stage direction, says “(impressively): I’m a police inspector, Miss Birling.” The use of this adverb brings a lot of power to the sentence, making it sound not only important, but also overwhelming and imposing.

Second of all, we perceive the Inspector as an efficacious man, able to get the right responses from people to do his duty. He uses this trait to make people think about their actions, and respond to his inquiries in a positive manner. We can take the example of this quote: “And so you used the power you had, as a daughter of a good customer (…), to punish the girl (…)?” With the use of tripling, the Inspector makes Sheila think about her childish actions, and also gives the reader a negative aspect of her. This quote does not only show that he is efficacious, but that he is also sardonic (which we will see in the next paragraph). By phrasing his sentence in a certain way, the author manages to bring out both of these traits at the same time: he manages to get the right response out of Sheila but also mocks her at the same time. Also, the use of short sentences shows how efficacious the words of the inspector can be. We can see this in this quote, “Yes, but you can’t. It’s too late. She’s dead.” He says this after Sheila explains that she would help Daisy Renton/Eva Smith if she could, but the Inspector brings her back to the harsh reality of it all thanks to these three short sentence. The use of short sentences here is to emphasize what the inspector’s saying, and also being realistic about this situation. Every time that someone tries to evade the gravity of the situation, the Inspector brings them back to it. We can take the example on page 176, where Mr Birling says “I can’t think they can be of any great consequence”, but then the Inspector reminds him that “the girl’s dead though”.

Finally, we can see that the Inspector is sardonic throughout a lot of the play. When we find his sardonic comments, we ca see that they are mostly questions destined to mock the person he is talking to. In “apologize for what-doing my duty?” we can clearly feel that the Inspector is making fun of a person, in this case Birling. By doing this, he is undermining Birling, showing him that he is the one with power. This type of question also wants to show the audience how ignorant, or maybe even naïve, Arthur Birling is. The next venomous question is directed towards Mrs Birling, when she admitted to not giving help to the young woman. “So she’d come to you for assistance because she didn’t want to take stolen money?” The way this sentence is phrased, we could almost imagine the incredulous look in the Inspector’s eyes. He is clearly mocking Mrs Birling regarding her decision, and wants to make her see how wrong she was. In this text, we can see that the Inspector is more aligned to the younger generation, such as Sheila, whereas he clearly disapproves of the parent’s attitude towards the case. He treats the two women differently; being polite towards Miss Birling (which is how he calls Sheila), and on the other hand mocks Mrs Birling openly.

When we first meet Sheila, she appears to be a very naïve young woman, and also quite materialistic. When Sheila first gets her engagement ring, she shows signs of materialism, especially when she says, “oh-it’s wonderful! (…) Isn’t it a beauty?” With the use of exclamations and of the onomatopoeia, we can see that she gives a lot of value to objects and pretty things, thus proving her materialism. We can see that Sheila is a naïve woman when she asks if Eva Smith’s death was an accident: “Oh-how horrible! Was it an accident?” This genuine question shows emphasizes Sheila’s naivety, as she does not want the death to be a suicide but would prefer it to be a simple accident. Although she seems naïve, we can see that she is very compassionate, shown by the exclamation mark at the end of her phrase. It demonstrates her genuine sadness at this situation, unlike her father who was cold and distant (“(rather impatiently): Yes, yes. Horrible business.”) Once again, Sheila’s materialism makes her seem naïve, as shown in the quote: “pretty?” when she asks if the deceased was a pretty woman. By asking this one-worded question, she makes us believe that she only cares for pretty and expensive things. At the start of the play, Sheila is the incarnation of what women were perceived as in those days: materialistic and naïve. Throughout the play, Sheila evolves from this stereotypical woman to a compassionate and humane person. This is why Sheila is one of the most interesting characters to analyse.

Furthermore, Sheila’s character develops throughout the play and becomes more compassionate and humane to the eyes of the readers. We can see that when she says “(rather distressed): Sorry! It’s just that I can’t help thinking about this girl.” By using the modal verb “cannot”, Sheila shows us that she is extremely compassionate, unlike her parents, who appear to be indifferent to the girl’s death. In the next quote, the readers start to warm up to Sheila thanks to her morals: “But these girls aren’t cheap labour-they’re people.” We can see that she genuinely cares about people thanks to the emphasis that she puts on that word. By saying this, she is contradicting her father’s ideals, as he is a capitalist and she is clearly a socialist.

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