The inspector in Priestly’s An Inspector Calls could be said to be one of the most unfathomable characters in modern or early modern literature. However we do know several aspects of his personality and politics from the text and from these can draw intelligent guesses as to his origins and motives. Unfortunately this technique is very biased since using it, it is entirely possible to show that someone is gay, a paedophile a Nazi a Communist or the Easter Bunny. From the text however the following can still be drawn.
He is only described as “tall,” otherwise he is described as the actor playing him. (Ironically the person we had playing him is quite short). He presumably would look like the average man in early twentieth century Britain, this is assumed since the Birlings do not react to him in the way they would be expected to should he look out of the ordinary.
From his comments on how workers should be treated, or at least his possible sarcasm on the point we can assume he has socialist sympathies. However the way Priestly has written him means that while it is easy to be given this impression it is very difficult to prove since every comment he makes on the point is either probably sarcastic or is him merely asserting that something is a valid idea. He does however make his principles clear at the end of the play when he delivers his final speech. He refers to there being many “Eva Smiths” and “John Smiths” in this world, and that we should help them, meaning that we should help the poor working class, a very socialist sentiment. Since the Inspector seems to be the voice of priestly it is reasonable to assume that he is a socialist and a humanitarian, since this is what priestly was.
Another assumption we can make about him is that he is a pacifist. The only mention of this is closing speech, in which he asserts that if we do not learn to get along we will pay the price in war. If you read the speech (printed at the end of this writeup), you can see the relevance of it today, which is interesting because that would suggest that the Inspector is timeless, something which is of relevance when determining his origins.
As to the Inspector’s origins they are very sketchy. As far as I am able to ascertain he is not an inspector and yet he has managed to collect a very large amount of information on the Birlings. He claims that he has gained this information from the girl’s (Eva Smith) diaries, however there is doubt as to whether she is one girl or several or if she even existed, we do know a girl died, but we do not know how that ended. He seems to have omnipresence, and while he never claims to know everything it is often apparent that he is more informed than he claims. Since he is not really an inspector and yet his information does have some basis in fact it is possible to assume that he is not a natural person, but a supernatural being. His name, Goole, enforces this view. However he may be just a concerned individual who happens to be well connected.
He is a gifted speaker, able to focus everyone’s attention and, to quote Priestly, able to “take control massively,” he has a disconcerting habit of staring for a second at someone before speaking. We can imagine that his tone would be that of universal authority and that he would have a lot of charisma, or at least enough to threaten someone with an ego such as Birling’s.
To conclude, the Inspector is a complex individual who’s views are presented as universal, and certainly apply today. Had we heeded his advice this would likely be a better world. I will conclude the Inspector’s closing speech since this, I think, sums up his opinions and personality:
”Remember this. One Eva Smith is gone - but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with their lives and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives and what we think and say and do. We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for one another. And I tell you the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish."