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An Inspector Calls


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A: J. B. Priestley Pf: 1946, Manchester Pb: 1947 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Dining room of the Birlings' home, English Midlands, 1912 C: 4m, 3fArthur Birling, a prosperous north of England factory owner, has two reasons to celebrate: his daughter Sheila is engaged to the eligible Gerald Croft, and Arthur is to be awarded a knighthood for services to industry. As the Birlings and Gerald dine, congratulating themselves on their achievements, they are visited by police inspector Goole. Goole is investigating the suicide of a destitute young girl. At first the family members deny any involvement with her, but it is gradually revealed that they all contributed to her death: Arthur Birling refused to raise her pitifully inadequate wages and then sacked her for going on strike; Sheila's intolerant attitude had her dismissed from her subsequent job as a shop assistant; Gerald had an affair with her then abandoned her; Eric Birling, in turn, left her when he discovered she was pregnant; Mrs Birling's charity committee refused to help her, because she was deemed to be immoral and undeserving. When the Inspector leaves, Birling, terrified of the impending scandal, phones the police and learns that there is no such person as Inspector Goole. Relieved, the family agree it must have been a tasteless hoax, when a telephone call informs them that a young woman has committed suicide and that an inspector is on his way.

A: J. B. Priestley Pf: 1946, Manchester Pb: 1947 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Dining room of the Birlings' home, English Midlands, 1912 C: 4m, 3f

With obvious echoes of The Government Inspector, events here take a much more serious turn: Priestley the socialist uncovers, as in Dangerous Corner, just below the surface of the respectable and moneyed middle classes the lies and heartlessness which lead in both plays to the death of an offstage figure who returns to accuse them. Priestley's pushing the boundaries of conventional drawing-room realism was realized spectacularly by Stephen Daldry in an expressionistic staging at the National Theatre in 1992.

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards) — Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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J. B. Priestley (1894—1984) writer


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