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Analyse how Priestley uses the inspector to create tension and suspense in 'An Inspector Calls'

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Introduction

Analyse how Priestley uses the inspector to create tension and suspense in 'An Inspector Calls' In 1945 audiences for the first time were seeing J.B. Priestley's latest work - 'An Inspector Calls': A play written to challenge the class system and social workings of Britain that had been in place for hundreds of years. Priestly believed firmly in the concept of social equality, or as its better known, socialism. During the war he made many radio broadcasts, talking about how a stronger Britain could be built from the ruins that the war would leave. The class system comprised of three "levels": "Lower", "Middle" and "Upper". Almost the entire wealth in Britain was owned by a very small percentage of the upper class. It consisted mainly of owners of large business empires or other profitable enterprises. The middle class was made up of small time successful business men, or people who had married into it. The lower class consisted of factory workers, servants or other employees working for just enough money to keep themselves alive. During the war this system had been inoperative. ...read more.

Middle

Mr Birling is expecting to receive a knighthood, which would enable him to potentially move in higher social circles and move up the social ladder. As long as he can "keep out of trouble for the next few months" his knighthood is almost guaranteed. When the inspector starts to uncover the less respectable side to his family tension is built because Mr. Birling and the audience are aware that should the results of the inspector's enquiry get into the public domain his chances of being awarded a knighthood would be shattered. The inspector tries to make the Birlings feel guilty for what they have done. The way in which he asks questions makes the audience think they are being accused; this also helps to build tension. Every so often the inspector will describe Eva's death, each time adding a little more detail, in the hopes of making them feel guilty and responsible for what they have done. The language he uses is graphic: he stresses words such as "agony" to try and make his point. He wants them to realise their social responsibility and not abuse their social position. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although he asked questions, he appeared to already know the answers which again reinforces that he wasn't there to get answers, he was there to make a point. His parting words have an incredible effect, as the audience, who have just lived though a war, can easily identify with them: "...and if man cannot learn this lesson they will be taught it in blood, and fire, and anguish. Goodnight" After the Inspector has left there is tension and suspense created as all the characters start to blame each other for their supposed involvement with the death of Eva. Mr and Mrs Birling still firmly maintain that they have done nothing wrong, Gerald accepts limited responsibility and despite all the evidence that Gerald put forward Sheila and Eric still recognise the part they played in Eva's suicide and feel responsible and guilty. The play is ended in an intense atmosphere of tension and suspense as Mr. Birling answers the phone to find "...a girl has died on the way to the infirmary after drinking some strong disinfectant..." and "...a police officer is on his way here to ask us some questions." This leaves the audience wondering - Who was 'Inspector Goole' and how did he know what he did? Alistair Fenning 22/10/02 ...read more.

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