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'An Inspector Calls' - How does Priestley's presentation of the Inspector create dramatic tension in the play?

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Introduction

Drama Coursework 'An Inspector Calls' Question Title: How does Priestley's presentation of the Inspector create dramatic tension in the play? During the play 'An Inspector Calls' the Inspector is used as a dramatic device. He raises and decreases the tension due to his attitude, actions, speeches and his symbolic role to the family, and audience at the time when the play was first performed. Throughout my essay I will be examining how Priestley's presentation of the Inspector generates tension throughout the play. Before the Inspector is introduced into the play, the atmosphere in the Birling's house is quite relaxed. They are celebrating Sheila and Gerald's engagement, so there is a party atmosphere and dull lighting. The stage directions describe the situation as: "At the moment they have all had a good dinner, are celebrating a special occasion, and are pleased with themselves." The Inspector's arrival disrupts the family's celebration; this automatically raises the tension, because the family would be annoyed by the abrupt interruption of their celebration. When the Inspector first rings the doorbell, Birling is just finishing one of his arrogant speeches. He has just said: "a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own." This is significant in relationship to the play because Birling's original views are exactly what Priestley, through the Inspector, is trying to teach the audience not to think like. ...read more.

Middle

As the play continues Birling gets angrier with the Inspector. The Inspector raises the tension hugely when he lets the family know that he is here to speak to other people as well. Birling replies to this with: "You didn't come here just to see me, then?" When the family learns this, the tension increases because they wonder what else he would need to find out. The stage direction say: "The other four exchange bewildered and perturbed glances." By letting the family know this, the Inspector eases Birling's tension and raises the tension among everyone else. This is an example of the Inspector raising and lowering tension. Before the Inspector begins to interrogate the next person, he gives out more information about Eva Smith. He does this to bring her to life and to change 'Eva Smith' from just a name to a real person. "She was out of work for the next few months. Both her parents were dead, so that she'd no home to go back to." This gets the characters more emotionally involved with the girl, so they feel sorry for her because they know about her unfortunate life and therefore will feel more guilty when they discover their individual involvement in her rotten life. The next person the Inspector interrogates is Sheila. Sheila seems like more of a caring person than Birling. ...read more.

Conclusion

They may have been led to believe this because, in the 1992 Royal National Theatre production the Inspector wears 1940 clothes when the play was set in Edwardian times. In this version of the play the Birling's house is precariously balanced up high, it looks as if it could come crashing down at any moment, and at the end of the play the house does fall down. This symbolises the way that the Birlings thought that they were superior to the lower classes and the way that the Inspector brought these ideas crashing down. In the 1954 film version of the play the man who plays the Inspector is a pale faced man with dark dramatic eyes. This makes the Inspector look ghostly enforcing some peoples theories of him being a ghost. Because the Inspector's true identity is not revealed the tension in the play is increased. This is because the audience don't know anything about the Inspector, so do not trust the inspector and there-fore would be put on edge by him. Priestley has presented the Inspector in a very mysterious way, we do not know where he comes from or anything about him, but it is soon made clear why he is in the play; to teach an important lesson. The audience is left thinking about the play and all the issues raised in it. This play definitely left me thinking about my role among society. ...read more.

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