The following academic paper highlights the up-to-date issues and questions of Tension In An Inspector Calls. This sample provides just some ideas on how this topic can be analyzed and discussed.
JB Priestley creates immense tension in his 1945 play, ‘An Inspector Calls’, with didactic purposes to question how society deals with individuals and their problems. The growing tension between the characters on stage is reflected in the audience’s awareness of gap between the rich and the poor. Priestley is able to criticize society boldly, as he distances the characters on stage with, tone of speech, and the whereabouts of the characters.
This means he can additionally take advantage of society’s regimes and the tension portrayed as he writes the play in 1945. An Inspector Calls’ is set in 1912 at a time when society was strongly capitalist, and class, exceedingly, divided the world. It was written in 1945 at the end of the unspeakable Second World War. As the play is written at this time it allows Priestley to take advantage of creating tension by questioning conservative policies and class distinction.
Between these dates Britain was involved in two world wars, which caused major upheaval in the world.
Priestley had seen the unpleasant tragedies and was overwhelmed and concerned that the lesson of the war remained unlearned: and did not lead to improvement of the lives of ordinary people, but yet to another war. Due to the fact that Priestley was a socialist, he felt that society should be equal and class barriers should be broken.
Priestley creates vivid tension with the use of setting and props, the Inspector, Society’s double standards, speech and dramatic irony. However another way Priestley endures tension is by playing around with a challenging genre.
Firstly in the setting of Act One, wealth is immediately established into the atmosphere of tension in society, indicating that the characters are wealthy by living in a ‘large suburban house’. To the audience this could show an instant sign of snobbery. Many more values are added to show wealth and symbolism of the characters. Part of the stage direction and props is the ‘cigar box’. It states symbolism of power establishing Mr Birling as an authority figure, which sets up tension when the Inspector interrogates him.
The inconvenience of the dining table is mentioned and suggests the inflexibility that later shows about the set ways of Mr and Mrs Birling. The table manages to create tension as it is referring to the atmosphere and nature of the family. It reflects the solid unit which is uncomfortable, much like the subtext and unity of the family which later crumbles under the society of inspection. It creates tension by becoming awkward and artificial, just like the family. The fireplace has a colossal deal of importance in the play. It can be dramatically seen as a juxtaposed paradox to the holocaust.
It represents a flaming inferno and the burning down of society’s barriers. Later on in Act Three the Inspector gives an intense, dramatic and extremely heated speech. He mentions ‘fire and blood and anguish’ which could be referred to the fireplace that is lit throughout the play. It is almost a continuous heartbeat that is heating up the tension and conflict of characters. It is as if the fire is spreading like a disease from one person to the next as they start to confess one by one. The fireplace also has a correlation with Eva’s death.
She apparently died by being burnt ‘burnt her inside out’ which relates to a fire and produces a mass of tension. The lighting in Act one is notified and thought about deeply to create a vast amount of tension and unease. At first the lighting ‘should be pink and intimate’ creating comfort but then it switches to ‘harder and brighter’ when the inspector comes in. The stark lighting becomes alarming to the family and creates the effect as if they are put under a microscope. Also the vivid lighting exposes the characters and society’s flaws as well as their own.
However later as the Inspector arrives with the hard-hitting light it causes the family to be literally ‘under the spotlight’ and makes the harsh clear reality evident. As soon as Inspector Goole steps foot into the room his presence certainly ups the intensity between each other and the Inspector. To begin with his name is eerie as he is announced as ‘Inspector Goole’. It is a deep name as you are reminisced of the word ghoul and can be linked together which creates a spooky aspect of his name and becomes daunting.
He creates at once an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness’ immediately the Inspector creates unjust tension in the room and is profoundly hard hitting. He manages to have a concentrated effect on the character as well as the audience and takes everyone’s undivided attention. ‘He speaks carefully, weightily, and has a disconcerting habit of looking hard at the person he addresses before actually speaking’. Here the inspector continues to keep giving a harsh force on each individual especially when tension is created between the Inspector and Birling.
When speaking to Birling, Birling begins to feel manipulated as he starts to use hyphens when speaking, and not acting so abrupt. However Birling is very observant and weary of the Inspector and as soon as he finds a error he immediately becomes stuck up. For example Birling realises that the Inspector is ‘new’ and takes advantage and becomes arrogant. The Inspector has a defined way of asking people questions, it is very calmly said but in an aggressive mode. He is able to bring justification into his etiquette act. Throughout the play many terms are referred to society’s double standards.
In the Edwardian Era sex before marriage was frowned upon and was not traditional, in this case Gerald was playing in between two women. It was acceptable for Gerald to have a relationship with Sheila as they were being truthful and loving to each other and are of the same class and social hierarchy. However when Gerald began seeing his mistress ‘Daisy Renton’ (also known as Eva Smith) it was not acceptable to have a full, sexual relationship as she is of a lower standard in society. He should have subscribed to Edwardian values and kept Sheila as his love, conversely he had an affair with Daisy.
Ironically Eric refers to prostitutes as ‘fat old tarts’-this is another ambiguity and double standard used and shows how the women are inferior. In Edwardians views Eva (Daisy) was seen like a prostitute because she stayed at bars where prostitutes hung out. After all the talk of sex and prostitutes the house becomes corrupted as Priestley emphasises the double standards. Another double standard used in the play is the fact that women seem too feeble to men. They need to be protected against words of evil as if they cannot provide or look after themselves.
Birling sends the two women out of the room, as they need to be protected and defended, as they are the ‘weaker sex’. He does this mainly to relieve the tension of his women hearing all the foul talk. As well as the double standards the ways in which characters spoke to each other in ‘An Inspector Calls’. Priestley conveys each character differently and he does this by their speech. The Inspector indicates a lot of tension to the family as he is very calm and collective which stresses them out, as they are not. This shows that he is in control and this unfortunately makes them even more distressed, the Inspector is almost like a Priest.
Countless stage directions are used mainly adverbs like: “aggressively”, “defensively”, “abruptly”, “eagerly” and “uneasily” are used which are shown creating dramatic tension in numerous ways. The way in which the characters speak to each other has many different effects as Mrs B is awfully snobby, Mr Birling is arrogant, Sheila feels like she is completely guilty for everything that has occurred and so on. Shelia says ‘That’s what you say’ this creates tension in the use of language and emphasises ‘you’ you imply that she doesn’t believe him.
Other tense moments are created: ‘Eric suddenly guffaws’ this stage direction and interjection is slightly bewildering and out of place. It creates tension as it doesn’t interlock with the atmosphere and Eric is having his secret amusement. Making everyone perplexed, but intrigued. Another effect created when characters are speaking is the use of hyphens/dashes. It creates tension as it interrupts language pace and the structure causes tension. Furthermore it shows that there is anticipation in their speech and there is something to hide or break down in communication.
Lastly JB Priestley constantly refers to the use of dramatic irony. Mainly Birling is the upholder of his naivety and complacency. Birling is extremely ironic when it comes to his arrogant monologue. It is completely prejudice and completely erroneous. ‘I say there isn’t a chance of war’ this is totally ironic as two years later the war started so he is making himself look like a fool. Also dramatic irony is used because as it is written later, the audience know that he is wrong and that a war was uprising then.
Because of setting the play in 1912 it reminds the audience that they can’t be complacent and that they have seen two world wars since the play’s setting. Also Birling debates about how the titanic would be ‘unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable’ and again this is totally incorrect as the titanic hit an iceberg and sunk. He also pronounces to Shelia and Gerald that ‘when you marry you’ll be marrying at a very good time’. Once more he has juxtaposed himself as the time that Shelia and Gerald were going to marry is not good because it would have been the time of war.
Furthermore Birling describes the German officers talk as ‘silly pessimistic talk’ when in actual fact it is not silly talk but truth and reality, which people should have taken into consideration and taken responsibility. So finally to conclude Priestley is able to create dramatic tension throughout Act One and the rest of the playwright with the use of props, speech and society. Priestly deliberately sets in another time but very critical of the modern society he wants to criticize. He wants to put across his views that people need to create a society, which concerns and feels responsible for each other.
Priestley implies to the audience that they are all sinners as Priestley is using biblical ideas and illusions, so that a microcosm of Goole becoming a Preacher man. Priestley desired to educate people and warn them and communicate with the populous through the popular medium of the theater. But Priestley boldly manages to intensify his longed emotions for a socialist country which makes the play so tense that he cliff hangers the end making the audience wonder that the Apocalypse is the revelation at the end of the world where we will be judged for who we are and what we do.