And finally, realising the knowledge he has gained, he gives in and decides to plead with the inspector for his mercy in this case. But this can also apply to the audience. For in this quest for justice (lead by the Inspector), the audience is just as much in the dark about the greater scheme of things as the characters. The facts are left clearly out in the open and obvious to realise, but they are not indicated until the character has suitably progressed forwards towards knowledge for it to be realised.
It could even be seen that the play is a modern version of the theme of a Morality play, in which the characters commit various actions, to lead to a consequence that ultimately changes them forever. The morality would be seen that they should have taken pity on the girl and not to shut themselves off from each other, inside the family. And the moral could quite easily be observed from their reactions to this turn of events. Even straight from the moment the inspector announces his purpose for being there.
The conclusion of the play is one of a more mystical element than the conventional detective thriller, in that the inspector usually catches the culprit and then it ends. At the end of a conventional ‘whodunit’, the main character indicates the one who has committed the offence. Then they are either apprehended by the authorities, are shunned by the rest of the group, or break down for all the offences they have committed and the punishment they expect to receive. In this play, the end is much more unconventional than others are.
The character of the inspector turns out to be some form of ghost or prophecy of what is to come, leaving the characters in complete disarray. “And a police inspector is on his way here – to ask some – questions-” Birling, Act Three The inspector turns out to have very little resemblance to a conventional inspector. The methods he uses to extract information, would, in conventional standards, be only used for some sort of reprimand on the person. Not only that, but the fact that the inspector was never there, even though they all interacted with him is what shocks the characters the most at the end.
In the build up to the phone-call, the characters go through many different reasons as to why the inspector could not possibly be a real inspector, but to no avail. I think that the playwright has done this to add the final element of mystery to the plot. The character of the inspector is well defined as a justice keeper, and throughout the play it seems there is something slightly odd about the way he behaves towards some of the most prominent people in the city.
The meaning of why the inspector was not supposedly there only further adds the element that perhaps their own guilt and responsibility finally overtook them and manifested into the inspector. There are elements of the play, which follow the conventional ‘whodunit’, but there is a much more serious meaning to this play. The meaning is that no matter what the circumstances, they all contributed to the death of the girl, and regardless of any arguments, they are all guilty.
Conventionally in a ‘whodunit’, only one person would be found to be guilty of the act, and the rest would all be completely innocent, if only due to the fact they were not truthful. The main purpose of a ‘whodunit’ would most probably be to give the audience an interesting insight into the deepest secrets of a set of characters, and to watch their progression and the gradual picking away at a few or all of the culprits carefully laid plans. Audiences generally find this type of situation not only complex, but also interesting to see how the characters are put together and what makes them do the things they do.
I feel that the purpose of this play was to highlight the fact that regardless of the amount of covering over you do, if you are guilty of contributing to something, you are guilty of the crime just as much as everyone else. This could possibly be a comment on the fact that it was written during the war, which was a time when many people could commit dire crimes and yet only one person would be blamed. The audience would probably feel that the play shows how justice can be served to all those responsible for the disgraceful act of allowing this girl to commit suicide, and that they were all just as guilty.
I feel that “An Inspector Calls” is very far from a conventional ‘whodunit’, in that the depth of the characters stories, and the intricacy of them all is something that ‘whodunit’s simply do not require. The things like the character of the inspector being some form of manifestation of guilt is what would probably be the deciding factor. And regardless of the play including elements of a ‘whodunit’, the way in which the characters develop in the play, and the main factor that they are all guilty, would make it very much more than a conventional ‘whodunit’.