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

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How does Priestly create suspense and tension at the end of act 2 of "An Inspector Calls"? Ben Davis ~ 10ic ~ Mrs. Wood An Inspector Calls, by J.B. Priestly, is the story of the visit by an Inspector to an apparently normal, rich family, the Birlings. They are celebrating Sheila Birling's (Mr. & Mrs. Birlings daughter) engagement to Gerald Croft (A young man who's father owns a large factory and is very well off), who is also present, when the Inspector arrives telling them of the suicide of a young girl called Eva Smith. At first they deny any knowledge of the girl, but as the play goes on the Inspector manages to show that they all helped kill her. Mr. Birling had her fired from his factory for demanding a small increase in wages; Sheila ordered her to be dismissed from her job in a shop simply because of her pride, and she felt that Eva found her appearance humorous when wearing a hat; Gerald Croft kept her as his mistress before leaving her suddenly; Eric Birling (Mr & Mrs Birling's son) also had an affair with the girl and stole money from, his fathers office to keep her living; and Mrs Birling used her influence to deny help to Eva Smith when she needed it most, all of this eventually drove her to suicide. Mr. Birling is a successful factory owner, ex-Lord Mayor of Brumley and a local magistrate. He doesn't take into view the concerns of his workers, and the world outside of Britain. ...read more.


Mrs. Birling was deliberately distant with the inspector over what Eva said. Priestly is trying to make the audience dislike Mrs. Birling as she is made out to be very pompous and dishonest. Later on in act the inspector was asking her many questions so she would hesitate and finally give in. This confrontation between Mrs. Birling and the inspector was very tense as Mrs. Birling was retaliating to the inspector's harsh questions. The inspector was putting a lot of pressure on Mrs. Birling, and she was forced to tell her story clearly. Before the inspector expressed his anger, Mrs. Birling thought herself as a stronger or equal force to the inspector, and saw no need to tell the truth. Then the inspector marked his authority. Mrs. Birling got the message and cowed away, also the inspector had silenced Mr. Birling by roaring 'Don't stammer and yammer at me again, man' as Mr. Birling went to protest at one of the inspectors statements. This tells us that the inspector is the most powerful and dominant force in the house. Following this, the suspense rises as Mrs. Birling is compelled to tell the truth. When she does so, she explained how Eva was describing the father of the child. This description was 'a youngster - silly and wild and drinking too much'. This matched Mr. and Mrs. Birling's son Eric, the audience would have realised but the actors didn't. This is a good use of dramatic irony and keeps the suspense going in the act. ...read more.


The scene ends on a suspense cliff-hanger. It is unpredictable how the Birlings will react, they may be annoyed for Eric impregnating a lower class woman and stealing money from his father, or they may be softer on him, taking in mind how harsh they, themselves treated Eva. Either way the audience knows that the inspector will bring Eric down, but they don't know how Eric will react, and are ready to hear Eric's story. In this scene there are three confrontations. The main one is between the inspector and Mrs. Birling, where the inspector endeavours in making her realise she was unfair in dismissing Eva's plea for help. Then there is the conflict between the inspector and Mr. Birling, where Mr. Birling makes attempts to defend his family. The last one is between Sheila and her parents. Sheila doesn't have a great part in the scene but she made a great impact by attempting to stop her mother from getting into trouble. J.B. Priestly was a socialist, and believed that if everyone in the world was treated equally then it would be much more peaceful and better place to live in. In the scene there was sufficient evidence of Mrs. Birling showing prejudice toward lower class citizens, mainly when she was referring to Eva. This is one of the reasons why she was treated and punished very severely by the inspector. This is a reason for why the scene was so tense, because the inspector and Mrs. Birling are both very different people fighting for different beliefs. 1 ...read more.

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