Tension In The Birling Family Analysis

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"In what ways does Priestley vividly convey the tensions in the Birling family?"

Priestly uses many devices to convey the tensions in the birling family in ‘An Inspector Calls’. Tensions are conveyed through the setting and use of time, character isssues, dramatic irony and stage directions and the use of mystery throughout the play. Tensions in the Birling family are shown from the beginning with the room described as ‘not cosy and home-like’ and the audience senses a coldness underneath the ‘jolly’ engagement celebrations.

Setting and Use of Time.
An Inspector Calls is set in 1912, but was written in 1945. There is tension between the lifestyle of the Birlings conveyed in the opening scene: rich, powerful, idle and the life of their workers
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Has a girl died? How did the inspector know if she hadn’t already died? Have they broken a moral law or a legal one? Is it the photo of the same girl or different ones? All these questions are asked by the audience and is milling around in the minds of the Birling Family.

Character issues:
The Inspector as the catalyst for highlighting the different tensions in the family, is abrupt in his questionning, interjects and brings the family back to the main issue, dismissing squabbles. There is tension between his self-possession and the birling family who at times show hysteria, self-doubt, being thunderstruck, needing a drink etc.

Priestly shows tensions in the family by contrasts in the character’s personalities and world view. There is immediate tension between Birling and the Inspector. Birling representing the complacent, arrogant and selfish old world views of 1912 and the Inspector acting as a mouthpiece for priestlys social responsibility and community views, more related to the time the play was written. Birling absolutely cannot see that he has done anything wrong by sacking Eva rather than paying her a living wage. Birling sees Eva as a commodity, a ‘labour

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