Gerald Croft tries to avoid any involvement with the questioning from Inspector Goole and says “Look here, sir. Wouldn’t you rather I was out of this?” Automatically the audience will assume he’s hiding something and wants to escape any inquiries. Mr. Birling in trying to protect his future son in law from inquiries defends Gerald by saying “he is the son of Sir George Croft- you know Crofts Limited.” This has a double meaning. In one way Priestly builds up the tension here as we start to believe Gerald has some sort of evolvement in this and that Mr. Birling is trying to protect both of their reputation because they are from upper class society yet this is double standards because as it turns out Gerald who is engaged to Sheila Birling was actually involved in a relationship with Eva Smith.
Mr. Birling also has double standards as he is concerned about receiving a Knighthood and recognition in the community yet when Eva Smith tried to better herself by asking him for a salary increase he refused her and because she did not conform had her dismissed like an old rag worthless in his eyes because she did not have the social standing of his own family who seemed to be Mr. Birlings only concern.
The Inspector makes it quite clear that Birlings actions had a direct effect on the events that followed leading to the events of Eva Smith but even then Birling does not accept any responsibility and chooses to ignore his part in this girls death. We understand this in Birlings quote “I can’t accept any responsibility. If we were all responsible for everything that happened to everybody… it would be very awkward.” Sheila Birling was also guilty of abusing her position in society and through her jealousy of Eva had her dismissed from her second job adding to the distraught circumstances that followed.
Gerald Croft Quotes
At the start of act one the characters seem solid and strong in their thoughts but after the Inspector questions them one at a time they are slowly broken down and the truth is sieved out and each of the character true self is exposed for what they really are. The tension mounts during act one as the Inspector cleverly connects the lives of the Birlings with the dead girl and each and every one of them is clearly guilty of leading her to her outcome. During this act the family start to bicker with one another and in this way the Inspector is able to direct questions at the guilty members in all of this Gerald’s affair comes out in the open so obviously there is now tension between Sheila and Gerald and the audience sense this. Priestly has succeeded in creating a very intense atmosphere amongst the Birlings as well as for the audience with Sheila’s comment “why you fool he knows.” Sheila had been broken down to the point where there were no more secretive matters.
It’s quite evident that Mr. Birling is completely engulfed in his own world with total disregard for the less fortunate. He even tries to convince Gerald and Eric that there is nothing unstable about the era they are living in, and that Gerald would be marrying at a very good time. He feels there will be no war and makes a reference to the “unsinkable Titanic.” He tells Eric to ignore “a few German officers talking nonsense” and goes on to say “There’ll be peace and prosperity…everywhere.” Priestly creates a quiet confidence within Birling but the audience knows and is held in suspense because it’s evident that war does follow and the Titanic will sink so in effect Birling Is portrayed by Priestly as a very ignorant man, completely unaware of the realities.
Another twist to act one is cleverly done when Birling accuses the Inspector of making a nasty mess of their celebration even when he says “We were having…a celebration tonight. And a nasty mess you’ve made of it now.” Cleverly Priestly turns the tables and the Inspector replies “That’s what I was thinking…when I was looking at what was left of Eva Smith…I thought, a nasty mess somebody’s made of it.” This turns the accusation from Birling into blame and creates tension by leading the audience to believe Birling was responsible.
Throughout act one J.B Priestly gradually exposes the real characters of the Birling family who though living a comfortable upper class life really have no regard for the less fortunate. This is done through the character of Inspector Goole, who mysteriously come into their lives and extracts intimate details exposing who they really are and their double standards. This is done skilfully using different techniques and with a slow build up of tension through lighting, conversation and interrogation eventually the truth comes out. The audience are kept in suspense throughout act one as the Inspector gradually picks away at the details with his cunning use of questions.