Inspecting Inspector Goole | Facing History & Ourselves
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Inspecting Inspector Goole

Students create an identity chart for Inspector Goole, analyse his parting words, and look for clues to uncover who or what Inspector Goole is.


This resource is intended for educators in the United Kingdom.

At a Glance

lesson copy


English — UK


Two 50-min class periods
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement
  • Human & Civil Rights


About this Lesson

In the previous lesson, students began to discuss the concept of power, and the impact that it has on both the relationships in the play and relationships in society. Students focused their text-based study on Eric and his implied sexual assault of Eva Smith, which paved the way for students to discuss sexual consent. 

In this lesson, students will further reflect on what An Inspector Calls can teach us about the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others by considering the message that Inspector Goole sends the characters and the audience. In his parting speech, and throughout the play, Inspector Goole holds the characters to account for their actions, making them understand that they are interconnected with and interdependent on those around them: their actions and decisions have consequences that reach far beyond their own lives. Those who read and watch the play cannot help but reflect on themselves and understand that they too have a responsibility to consider the needs of fellow human beings. 

Students will begin the lesson by creating an identity chart for Inspector Goole before reading the next section of the play. Students will then explore the character of Inspector Goole in depth, paying particular attention to his closing speech, which emphasises the importance of social responsibility. In addition to completing activities to explore character development, students will write analytical paragraphs and will reflect on the Inspector’s words, message and what he symbolises. Such reflection will enable them to consider what factors shape their moral views, to think about social responsibility in society and to consider what the play can teach us about our own lives and relationships. Students will then go on to consider the mysterious nature of Inspector Goole, exploring the purpose of the character, what he represents and why Priestley may have opted to create an Inspector who behaves much like a ‘ghoul’ by effectively disappearing from the plot.

The activities in this lesson refer to pages 55–64 of the Heinemann edition of An Inspector Calls.

  • Analysis (Lit-AO2, Lang-AO2)
  • Critical Reading (Lit-AO1/AO3, Lang-AO1/AO4)
  • Evidence-Based Reasoning (Lit-AO1–3/Lang-AO1–4)
  • Knowledge of Content (Lit-AO1/AO3)
  • Reading Comprehension (Lit-AO1, Lang-AO1)

Students annotate, discuss and evaluate Inspector Goole’s parting words, considering the valuable ideas contained within the speech and the message that Priestley is transmitting. This focused study requires students to use comprehension skills, critical reading skills and evidence-based reasoning. Students then assess the portrayal of Inspector Goole throughout the play, scanning the pages to look for clues concerning who or what his character is. This process boosts students’ knowledge of the play’s content and encourages students to engage critically with the character, reflecting on his purpose and significance. Students can then develop this study by completing an analysis grid on Inspector Goole and writing an analytical paragraph concerning Priestley’s portrayal of the character. The use of discussion and writing throughout gives students the opportunity to verbalise their thoughts and practise turning them into coherent sentences, which will help them across their English GCSEs.

Learn more about this unit’s Alignment with GCSE Specification

What can J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls teach us about the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others?

  • What is the purpose of Inspector Goole in the play?
  • What can Inspector Goole teach us about the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others?
  • Students will analyse the presentation of Inspector Goole in his final speech, writing an analytical paragraph to share their findings.
  • Students will consider and discuss the purpose of Inspector Goole’s character, summarising their ideas on an exit card.

This lesson is designed to fit into two 50-min class periods and includes:

  • 9 activities
  • 3 teaching strategies
  • 1 PowerPoint
  • 1 handout
  • 1 extension activity
  • 1 homework suggestion

The ‘fire and blood and anguish’ (bottom of p. 56), which the Inspector warns the dinner guests (and the audience) about, is symbolic of the two world wars that occurred in Priestley’s lifetime, and which prompted him to write the play. It is important that students refer to this phrase in their analysis as it is relevant to the context and it can help them understand the significance of Inspector Goole’s message. Through him, Priestley reminds us of the potential consequences of not understanding our interconnectedness with others and of not taking responsibility for our actions.

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

Before teaching this lesson, please review the following information to help guide your preparation process.

In the first part of this lesson, students will be analysing Inspector Goole’s parting words from ‘Stop!’ (mid p. 55) to ‘He walks straight out’ (bottom of p. 56). Students will need to have their own copies of the relevant excerpt for an annotation activity. If students cannot write in their copies of the play, then ensure that they have access to a photocopy.

Each lesson in this unit includes a PowerPoint of student-facing slides. The PowerPoints are intended to be used alongside, and not instead of, the lesson plans because the latter include important rationales and context that teachers should familiarise themselves with before teaching the lesson.

The PowerPoints include basic content and student-facing prompts from the lesson plans but are minimally designed because we expect teachers to adapt them to fit the needs of their students and class.

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Lesson Plans

Part I Activities

  • Explain to students that today they will be focusing on understanding the character of Inspector Goole, exploring what his character represents and the lessons that he teaches both the characters in the play and the audience. 
  • Ask students to work in pairs to create an identity chart for Inspector Goole. They might review their previous identity charts and their notes in their books to remember all of the different factors that make up an individual’s identity. 
  • Next, take ideas from the students and create a class identity chart for Inspector Goole on the board.
  • Assign five students different reading parts and have them take their relevant props from the prop box. You will need students for the following roles: Inspector Goole, Eric, Sheila, Mr Birling, and Mrs Birling. 
  • Read the section of the play from Inspector Goole, ‘Stop!’ (mid p. 55) to ‘there is a ring at the front door’ (top of p. 61). Encourage students who are not reading to add information to their identity charts as they listen and follow along in their books.
  • Explain to the class that they will be doing a close reading of Inspector Goole’s final speech. If students can’t write in their books, pass out copies of the Inspector’s parting words from ‘Stop!’ (mid p. 55) to ‘He walks straight out’ (bottom of p. 56). Then, ask students to reread and annotate the text, projecting the prompts on the board: 
    • Circle or underline keywords.
    • Put a question mark by ideas you don’t understand or find puzzling.
    • Summarise key ideas: What does this say? What does this mean?
    • Write phrases or sentences that express your reactions and interpretations.
    • Note down what messages the author wanted to send.
    • Write down two claims that you could make about Inspector Goole based on this speech.
  • Invite students to share their annotations with another student, adding new ideas to their own annotations, before discussing the following questions in pairs: 
    • What is the most valuable idea in Goole’s speech? What makes you say that? 
    • What lessons can today’s audience learn from Goole?
  • After pairs have had a chance to reflect on Goole’s speech together, ask a few students to share their most valuable ideas with the whole group.

Next, discuss the following questions as a whole class: 

  • Inspector Goole states, ‘We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other’ (p. 56). What do you think he is saying here? Do you agree or disagree with his statements? Explain your answer.
  • How do you think the Inspector would answer the questions: Who is in your universe of obligation? Who is in society’s universe of obligation? 
  • What is the ‘fire and blood and anguish’ that Inspector Goole is referring to on page 56? 
  • Can you think of any modern examples of ‘fire and blood and anguish’ that have occurred because of a lack of us taking care of each other? If so, what are they? 
  • What can Inspector Goole teach us about the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others?

In class or for homework, ask students to draw an image or visual icon that encapsulates Inspector Goole’s general message. They can use images, words, phrases and colour to convey their ideas.

Part II Activities

  • Explain to students that they will be focusing on better understanding the character of Inspector Goole, and what his purpose is. 
  • First, ask students to journal on the following questions:

    The Oxford English Dictionary defines a conscience as ‘A person’s moral sense of right and wrong, viewed as acting as a guide to one’s behaviour.’ 1

    • What factors influence the moral code that guides our behaviour?
    • Why do you think different people experience different degrees of guilt for doing the same thing?
    • Do you think we can feel guilty about our behaviour if we don’t understand how it has impacted others? Explain your view.
    • Does having an experience of suffering make us less likely to harm others? 
  • Give students the opportunity to share their ideas with another student using the Think, Pair, Share strategy before leading a brief class discussion.
  • 1'Conscience' (dictionary entry), Oxford English Dictionary, accessed 24 June 2020.
  • Assign six students different reading parts and have them take their relevant props from the prop box. You will need students for the following roles: Mr Birling, Mrs Birling, Sheila, Edna, Gerald, and Eric.
  • Read the section from ‘there is a ring at the front door’ (top of p. 61) to Eric, ‘it’s still the same rotten story whether it’s been told to a police inspector or to somebody else’ (bottom of p. 64), and ask students to focus on the different character responses to Goole and what their responses tell us about the lessons being learnt. Students should annotate or take brief notes as they read.
  • Once students have finished reading, discuss the following questions as a class: 
    • Who takes responsibility for their role in the death of Eva Smith? Who does not? How do the characters’ responses impact how you view them?
    • In what ways has the Birling household’s universe of obligation changed or remained the same over the course of the play?
    • Why does it not matter to Sheila or Eric if Inspector Goole is a real police inspector or not? Do you think it matters? 
    • Do any of the props need to be changed? If so, what could they be changed to?
  • Explain to students that they will be looking for clues to understand who or what Inspector Goole is. 
  • Give students fifteen to twenty minutes to work in groups to find evidence that Inspector Goole is not your average police inspector. Explain that each student in the group will focus on a section of the play and that they will then share and discuss any quotations of interest that they find with the rest of their group.
  • If useful, project the following sections of the play on the board for students, though you may wish to give lower-level students shorter sections to skim: 
    • Stage directions, and from Birling, ‘solemnly’ (bottom of p. 9) to Sheila, ‘He says it’s one of us now’ (bottom of p. 18). 
    • Mr Birling, ‘Yes, and I’m trying to settle it. . .’  (top of p. 19) to ‘Now Mrs Birling enters’ (p. 29).
    • Now Mrs Birling enters’ (p. 29) to Gerald leaves, ‘We hear the front door slam’ (bottom of p. 40). 
    • Gerald leaves, ‘We hear the front door slam’ (bottom of p. 40) to the end of Act Two (p. 49).
    • Start of Act Three (p. 50) to Eric, ‘it’s still the same rotten story whether it’s been told to a police inspector or to somebody else’ (bottom of p. 64).
  • Then, ask students to revisit their identity chart for Inspector Goole and to add any new features in a different coloured pen, so they can track any changes in their perception of him.
  • Lead a short class discussion using the following questions:
    • Who or what do you think Inspector Goole is?
    • What is significant about his name?
    • Why do you think Priestley chose to present the Inspector in such a mysterious way?
  • Give students the opportunity to share their thoughts with you in the handout The Purpose of Inspector Goole Exit Card, which uses the following prompts: What do you think Inspector Goole is trying to get the Birling family to see, understand, or change? How do you know?
  • Collect these exit cards so you can understand the students’ responses and address any confusion in the next lesson.

Extension Activity

  • Guide students through the stick figure exercise, and ask them to create one for Inspector Goole. You may wish to model some ideas on the board, or to share these examples: 
    • The quotation, ‘We are responsible for each other’ would be in the upper left of his chest in a heart shape.
    • One index finger would be pointing out and would be composed of the quotation, ‘each of you helped to kill her’.
  • Give students an opportunity to share their work and to see the work of others in a gallery walk where students leave their books open on their table and then circulate around the room. Then, lead a class discussion using the following questions:
    • What have you learnt from creating a stick figure for Inspector Goole?
    • How does your stick figure help you understand Inspector Goole’s moral compass?

Homework Suggestion

  • Give students the Developing Analysis Grid handout and ask them to complete it for homework using ideas from the lesson. For those students wanting an extra challenge, you might ask them to write an analytical paragraph too. The following sentence starters can be given to the students, if desired:
    • In his closing speech, Priestley presents Inspector Goole as. . . [insert claim]
    • When [insert when/why the evidence occurs], Inspector Goole states. . . [insert quotation]
    • This suggests Inspector Goole is [restate claim] because. . . [analyse evidence]
    • The use of the word [select a phrase to zoom in on] reinforces this idea because. . .
    • This links to the context of the time because. . .
    • Priestley may have wanted his audience to. . .
  • Each time that students complete a piece of writing, it is important to review their work, giving them feedback if necessary to ensure that they do not develop inaccurate writing habits. When students hand in their homework, consider using the Marking Criteria Codes teaching strategy to give in-depth feedback and to boost student engagement with marking.

Materials and Downloads

Quick Downloads

These are the handouts that students use throughout the Inspecting Inspector Goole lesson plan.

Download the Files

Developing Analysis Grid - PDF
Students should use this for the homework suggestion.

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