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How Does J.B Priestley Create Tension in 'An Inspector Calls'?

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Introduction

How Does J.B Priestley Create Tension in 'An Inspector Calls'? 'An Inspector Calls' was written in 1945 by John Boynton Priestley and first performed in 1946, just after the conclusion of World War II. The world was changing culturally, socially and politically. This was a time when countries involved in the war were recovering physically and economically. The story is about the death of a young girl called Eva Smith who committed suicide. The main story involves a policeman called Inspector Goole uncovering the involvement of a rich family, the Birlings, in Eva Smith's death. The play is set in 1912; this was 11 years after the death of Queen Victoria, a powerful ruler whose influence was still there through the reign of her weak successor King George V. It was set in a fictive industrial town called Brumley, a similar place to real cities in the North Midlands like Birmingham or Burnley. The years preceding the First World War were a time of great unrest for many countries; the lower classes were becoming evermore confident. Hundreds of strikes happened all over the British Isles, the workers protesting for more pay and better treatment. The Suffragettes were fighting for women's right to vote and for a change in attitude towards women through strikes and protests; they were the focus of the nation's media. ...read more.

Middle

you be careful or I'll start weeping". Later in the play when Gerald refers to The Palace Bar, a well known haunt of prostitutes Sheila says "Well we didn't think you meant Buckingham Palace". This is particularly effective because Buckingham Palace is a very well known, respectable place. The shock factor is used in Priestley's scripting, especially for the inspectors role. This is to make an impact on the audience, to make them feel nervous. If I was directing the inspector's use of the shock factor I might make him say things like "a young woman died...burnt her inside out... she was in great agony" in a very casual way to make the audience wonder what kind of a person this inspector is. Priestley also uses language to set up a certain character for big fall from grace. For example, Mrs. Birling has no idea that her son Eric has anything to do with Eva Smith when she says "Blame the father... he's entirely responsible". But then she finds out that Eric is the father, a huge shock for Mrs. Birling and a turning point in the play for her and also for the audience who would have got an impression Mrs. Birling as a strong character but now she seems weak. Priestley uses body language to make tension as well. ...read more.

Conclusion

This shows how angry Sheila really is with Gerald and how the relationship between them breaks down through the play. It also helps us understand why Sheila does not break up with Gerald outright. Priestley uses sarcasm to show familiarity so I think the sarcasm suggests that Sheila may eventually forgive him. The anger at Gerald would create tension for the audience because the audience can identify with the characters' situation and empathize with them. The way the inspector has to make sure that no one besides the character he is talking to can see the picture of Eva Smith creates tension. "Is there any reason why we shouldn't see this picture Inspector?" The motives for this remain unknown throughout the play but this definitely raises tension. This is because the audience will wonder why the inspector has made sure that none of the other characters can see the picture. At the end of the play, the audience will wonder whether the Inspector had shown them all the same picture, this creates tension as well. In conclusion, I would say that Priestley uses several very effective methods of creating tension: The use of characters and their relationships with each other, dramatic silence, twists in the plot, props, language, groups, staging, philosophies and characterization. All these elements combine to make one of the first modern morality plays and one of the first modern crime dramas and still one of the best. ?? ?? ?? ?? 04/05/2007 1 Simon Radford ...read more.

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