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How does Priestley show tension is the at the heart of the Birling family?

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How does Priestley show tension is the at the heart of the Birling family? ?An Inspector calls? is an extremely controversial and well written play that brings out the gaps and flaws within society during the time period in which it is set. Priestley manipulates the emotions of the audience with ease, using rise and fall of tension to enthral and intrigue. He does this in a large number of intricate ways, using linguistically intriguing methods to show that tension is at the heart of the Birling family. There are many ways in which he uses tension to show this, the main, and most interesting being the way Birling uses differing views and clashes of beliefs between characters to bring out hidden feelings and revelations. The Inspector speaks to each of the characters separately, immediately asserting his authority within the family and creating suspicion amongst them. Mr Birling is plainly a capitalist, whereas characters such as Eric, Sheila and the Inspector seem to lean more towards the side of socialism, neither side willing to agree. Sheila makes it clear that she does not want Gerald to become ?purple faced? the subtext- when looked at- implying that she would hate him to become like her father and hinting at a bad relationship between the two. ...read more.


Another example of this is between Sheila and Gerald. At the start of the play, Sheila makes a partly bitter comment about ?last summer when he never came near me?, the mentioning of this foreshadows a possible revelation later on. It is evident that Sheila was suspicious of Gerald all along, as she quickly comes to the conclusion when the name ?Daisy Renton? is mentioned. In some ways Sheila seems to have expected this as she confronts Gerald, saying, ?how did you come to know this girl- Eva Smith?, her absolute certainty of this shows her intelligence and feeling of betrayal. The Inspector?s arrival along with the grim nature of his reasons cause the family to react in different ways. Birling, obviously threatened by the Inspector, tries to impose his authority as soon as the Inspector enters, conveniently mentioning the fact that he was ?Lord mayor two years ago- and still on the Bench?. He uses this information to try and gain superiority over the Inspector, however it seems to have no effect. Sheila on the other hand, is eager for the truth and gives the Inspector information willingly- even admitting blame. ...read more.


Eric also takes the side of the Inspector, causing tension between him and his father after the Inspector has left, this side is also taken by Sheila, causing a "split" in the family, which can be seen by "I suppose we're all nice people now." and "What's the use of talking about. Nobody's brought her to life, have they?" Whereas Birling says, after the Inspector was found to be fake "This makes a difference y'know. In fact it makes all the difference." The fact that Sheila and Eric are honest and admit their faults highlights the flaws of the older generation. This could also be a reference to the flaws of Capitalism at this point in time. The large gap between the beliefs of the two sides of the family causes a lack of understanding and therefore a lack of empathy. This creates tension between the two generations leading to conflict later on. In conclusion, much of the tension Priestley creates in the play using reasons for conflict between characters. Whether in misunderstandings between characters or differing beliefs. Priestley uses dramatic irony to foreshadow later events that the characters themselves are oblivious of. He keeps key facts from the audience, using subtext and hidden implications to create curiosity and tension between characters. ...read more.

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