In the Birling family there is a lot of tension between the Characters because Priestly begins to suggest hidden truths, lies, secrets etc. He starts to reveal them to the audience as a slightly forced family and the household one in which Mr. Birling rules and characters can’t speak freely. He creates characters with secrets and unspoken words and then slowly begins to expose the family throughout the play1.
Gerald and Sheila are two characters that are expected to get marries. Throughout the first pages the audience starts to realize that Mr. birling has climbed up the social ladder himself through marrying Mrs. Birling, his “social superior”. This suggests that every act he makes- even acts of love- are ways to propel himself further up the ranks of society as he probably married into Mrs. Birling’s family for the social benefits.
Mr. Birling highly encourages the marriage between Gerald and Sheila and, since Gerald’s family is very wealthy, this connection of families would make him more powerful. There is tension between the couple in Act 1, which seems to strain their relationship and tension is amplified by how much Mr. Birling wants the marriage to happen. Especially now Mr. Birling has a “very good chance of a knighthood”.
Mr. Birling continues this knighthood news with “so long as we behave ourselves” which suggests that something may go wrong. With the tensions between Gerald and Sheila, caused by his extended absence of summer, and the marriage being a stepping-stone to a possibility of a knighthood of Mr. Birling, the play becomes very tense.
Priestly successfully creates a lot of uneasiness between Gerald and Sheila through stage directions, secrets and slight confrontation.
In Act 1 Gerald and Sheila discuss his extended absence over summer. Sheila says, “That’s what you say” which shows that she believes he is lying. This lack of honestly already begins to indicate to the audience that this marriage may not be a good one....
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