SPOILERS. Inspector Goole shows up at the house under the pretext of asking questions of the family to ascertain their involvement in Eva’s life, but he actually knows all the answers to the questions before he even starts, and, as he tells them, he follows only one line of questioning at a time. He comes to warn the family ahead of time that if they do not change their approach to life and adopt a more humanistic mindset and morality, they will get a baptism of fire in the utter destruction of their family name. He comes to change their hearts and minds, foreseeing what is about to pass and intending to warn and challenge them, but also force them to admit to their callous and selfish behaviors. Though he seems immune to their protests and has no interest in their excuses, he shares the Fe belief at the end that “we don’t live alone, we are responsible for each other.” Humanity must care for and look after the weakest of its own, seeing every class as equal, in order to function and improve itself. He wants to change them, and for them never to forget their role in one woman’s downfall, since he can see the big picture of how each of their decisions impacted the overall picture of Eva’s life and led her on a downward spiral. He also comes to embarrass each of them in front of each other, and force them to confront their evil actions—to torment them on an emotional level, impact their feelings, and force them to change their ways through appealing to their deeper human nature and rubbing in how she died.

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The inspector has a moralistic tone and a belief in doing his “duty.” He appears to be either a visitation of God, raining down condemnation and disapproval upon the selfishness of this particular family, or an avenging angel sent to make them pay for Eva’s crimes. He wants them to take responsibility for their wrong, hurtful choices, and to change their ways—or face the “baptism of fire” that awaits them in public opinion and through their family disgrace in their involvement with this young woman’s downfall. He can be quite cold, immune to their pleas for him to be more appropriate and/or leave (which are all born of selfishness), and forceful in his views, choosing to stay and insisting he isn’t going to leave until he has fulfilled his duty. He confronts each of them with their sins and doesn’t seem much ruffled by their emotional upsets, remaining distant and cool, idealistic and judgmental.