GCSE English Literature Revision: An Inspector Calls: Themes

4th April 2017

GCSE Revision Notes

An Inspector Calls – English Literature/Drama/Theatre


If you are studying An Inspector Calls as part of your English GCSE, you will find these notes on the novel’s key themes helpful. We have broken down the main themes to help you to remember them when writing your essays and when revising for your literature exams.


  • The play was written by an English writer called J B Priestly. It is set in the early 1900’s in an industrial town in the Midlands.


  • The play shows Priestly’s disgust at the class system and acts as a platform to express his Socialist principles. He believed that people should have rights and be treated fairly no matter what their background.


  • The central character is an Inspector called Mr Goole. He calls at the house of a wealthy factory owner late one evening called Mr Birling. He come to tell them the unpleasant home truths that the Birling family have been instrumental in the death of one of their ex-employees. Each character has had some kind of negative effect on her life and not thought about the fatal consequences. Priestly shows that the rich did not think about the poor and their struggles.


  • The younger members of the family are receptive to the Inspector and start to see his point. The older generation are unwilling to see the consequences of their actions.


  • Priestly asks the reader to consider ourselves as a part of society and to consider how our actions effect one another.


  • The Inspector shows us that every action has a reaction and that there is a chain of events that lead to Eva’s death.


  • Time is not linear in this play (it does not flow in the normal way). We do not know if Eva is already dead or if Inspector Goole is giving a warning from which the Birlings can redeem themselves?


  • Goole may himself be a vision rather than a real man, perhaps a ghost or as his name suggests a ‘ghoul’. Is he there to give a lesson and what supernatural forces are at play?


Themes in the play include;



Youth and Age (generational differences)


Cause and Effect


The Supernatural


For more help with your revision for An Inspector Calls, check out our song at….

For more revision notes on GCSE English, Maths and Science go to …. for more songs and blogs.



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