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How does Priestley create suspense and tension at the end of Act 2 of "An Inspector Calls"?

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Introduction

Post 1914 Drama Coursework Assignment How does Priestley create suspense and tension at the end of Act 2 of "An Inspector Calls"? Throughout the play, suspense and tension has always been a part of whatever was happening on the stage. However this was especially true as the play neared the end of Act 2. Suspense from this act comes mainly from the three clues dropped which identify Eric Birling as the father of Eva Smith's baby. This allows the audience to realise this before anybody else on stage does. Tension also plays a big part in the play. This arises from conflict between characters on stage. The Inspector and Mrs Birling most of all creates incredible tension between them with the Inspector pushing his questions forward without listening to Mrs Birling's protests. The play starts off with the Birlings at dinner, happy and jubilant as they were about to be united to the prestigious Croft family through the marriage of Sheila Birling and Gerald Croft. When dinner has finished, the three men from the group - Mr Birling, Gerald and Eric - sit down as Mr Birling passes on his "experiences". Many of these were deliberately ironic such as Mr Birling saying a World War would not start. ...read more.

Middle

This creates incredible suspense for the audience, cleverly implemented by Priestley. These clues also create a bad image for Eric. He seems to be a young, spoilt teenager who uses his position of power to use others for his own enjoyment. This enables the audience to feel sorry for Eva and wait in anticipation as this "bad person" gets his deserved punishment. It also creates a sense of sympathy later for Eric when he admits he is truly sorry for what he did to Eva. Throughout the play, tension arises between the family and the Inspector, as well as between themselves. This is especially true for Mrs Birling and the Inspector as we neared the end of Act 2. The first thing we notice about the interrogation is the intense pressure the Inspector applies on Mrs Birling. An example of this can be seen after Mrs Birling tries to divert the question away with an irrelevant answer, to which the Inspector replied "I'm not asking you if you believed it. I want to know what she said." It is this type of persistence that cracked Mrs Birling, allowing the truth to pour out. It is also this type of persistence and pressure that we notice another interesting point of the interrogation. ...read more.

Conclusion

This can be seen from the line where Mrs Birling says "But surely...I mean...it's ridiculous..." We can see that she is desperately trying to search for an alternative answer to the problem and this also leads to the audience feeling "schadenfrende". Finally, interruption also adds to the suspense being built up. When Sheila interrupts Mrs Birling's speech on how the "young man" should be dealt with, the audience will be waiting in anticipation to see if Sheila's warning will be done in time. The suspense continues to build up when Sheila is ignored and the audience are still on the edge of their seats, waiting for the suspense to be relieved. The use of suspense and tension is cleverly implemented through many dramatic devices by Priestley. He builds the suspense up until an almost unbearable while still keeping the tension going at a high level between the Inspector and Mrs Birling. The incredible amount of suspense built up throughout the act is never truly relieved. The few seconds that Eric appears at the end of the act virtually confirms what the audience has been led to believe by the clues dropped. However, without speaking, the audience cannot fully confirm this. This lets the suspense and anticipation carry on to the next act, making the audience very interested in what is about to happen and keeping them in suspense throughout the break between the two acts. Chris Yong 10Q ...read more.

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