An Inspector Calls by J. B. Priestley

Page 7 of 13   -   1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13   Purchase full notes for £4.95 (aprox $7.72)

CHARACTERS

xiv ‘Arthur Birling […] Gerald Croft’ – The Birling family’s first names – Arthur, Sybil, Sheila and Eric – suggest a stereotypical middle-class family of the period; their surname has connotations of ‘burly’ and sounds a little coarse beside ‘Croft’. Gerald was, and is, a rather aristocratic-sounding name.

xiv ‘Inspector Goole’ – The name is similar in sound to the much more common ‘Gould’, while ‘Goole’ itself is a town in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and Priestley was a Yorkshireman. The name is also a homophone of ‘ghoul’, a word that originally derives from the Arabic ghul (as in Ras al-ghul, or ‘The Demon’s Head’ – the star Algol in the constellation of Perseus). In Arabian folklore, a ghul was associated with burial grounds and with luring the unwary out into the desert or other dangerous places. It would feed on dead flesh and then take the form of the person whose corpse it had consumed. Priestley’s mysterious character arguably draws on some of these elements.

xiv ‘All three acts, which are continuous […]’ – The division of the play into three parts is largely a practical matter of staging, but the ‘continuous’ action perhaps adds to a sense of the inexorability with which the Inspector incriminates the characters of the play in Eva Smith’s death, one after the other.

xiv ‘1912’ – Priestley has deliberately chosen a pre-war date (and therefore a date prior to the Russian Revolution). The First World War began the process of altering the social and class structures that had prevailed in Britain since Victorian times. By his uncovering some of the ‘social cruelty’ by which the bourgeoisie dominated the working classes, Inspector Goole can be seen to represent some of the economic and political effects of the war.

ACT ONE

1 ‘a fairly large suburban house, belonging to a prosperous manufacturer.’ – The Birlings are carefully placed in terms of their social class. They are in the higher echelons of the bourgeoisie, but without the Croft’s evident pretensions towards aristocracy.

1 ‘The general effect is substantial and heavily comfortable but not cosy and homelike.’ – the choice of décor, therefore, more about wealth and status than genuine family warmth.

1 ‘If a realistic set is used, then it should be swung back’ – Priestley is describing a revolving stage by which the downstage dining-table of Act One can be sent upstage (and out of the way) for Act Three.

previous     next
Purchase full notes for £4.95 (aprox $7.72)

J. B. Priestley