How Does Priestley Show That Tension Is at the Heart of the Birling Family

Topics: Inspector Clouseau, Plays, J. B. Priestley Pages: 3 (1130 words) Published: February 21, 2012
‘How does Priestley show that tension is at the heart of the Birling Family?’

Tensions in the Birling household are shown from the beginning of the play. The house is described as “not cosy and homelike” which represents the cold and unfriendly atmosphere; these characteristics very much reflect the family itself. There is a significant contrast between the older and younger generations throughout the play. An early hint of this is evident at the start of the play when Sheila says she would hate it if Gerald became “purple faced” which also indicates to the audience that Gerald will end up like the older generation. The attitude of the Inspector towards each the characters differs significantly which shows the audience contrast between them. The inspector is representing the opinions of J.B. Priestley, so we can infer that these views on each character should influence the viewers opinion on them also however, his judgemental nature suggests that he is not a real inspector which emphasizes the moral message being portrayed. The inspector deems Mr and Mrs Birling to be most at fault, he is more forceful and aggressive with Mrs Birling; this is show in her responses with stage directions like “severely” and “sharply”. He also reserves a particular dislike for Mr Birling and is aggressive and impatient with him; stage directions of “savagely” and “sharply” are used. Sheila is dealt with more lightly as she understands and accepts, showing remorse. Similarly, Eric is not dealt with so harshly – this conveys the difference between the generations. The inspector is also more sympathetic towards Gerald which is clear when he says “at least he made her happy for some time”. There is a difference in the language that is used by each of the characters. Slang is used by Sheila and Eric with language like “squiffy” “ass” and the phrase “Steady the Buffs.” Mr Birling uses different language also, often slipping into provincial speech with language like...
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