Dramatic Tension at the End of Act Two of 'an Inspector Calls'
Events throughout the Act lead to the dramatic tension at the end of act two such as the gradual build up towards the shock of Eric as the father of Eva’s unborn child; Mrs Birling’s swift change form outright confidence to devastation at the end of act two and Eric’s entrance just as Mrs Birling has claimed that the father of Eva’s unborn child should take sole responsibility for the suicide. Priestley creates this dramatic tension at the end of act two in order to set up eager anticipation for the continuance of the action in Act three.
At the beginning of Act two the audience expects the story to move onto Gerald’s confession. But instead, Priestley delays the action by shifting the audience’s attention to Sybil and Sheila, insisting that they should be allowed to hear what Gerald has to say. This builds tension and increases the audience’s curiosity.
Priestley also increases tension by having the Inspector release information bit by bit. He shows the photo(s) to one person at a time and positions himself so the others can’t see – the characters, like the audience, are kept on their toes.
Priestley creates dramatic tension at the end of act two by slowly building up to the revelation that Eric is, in fact, the father of Eva’s unborn child. Although this is not clearly stated in the Act, the audience have figured it out because of Sheila’s ‘growing hysteria’ and Eric’s obvious anxiety since the beginning of the play. The audience’s assumption that Eric is the father is almost confirmed when Mrs Birling bids the Inspector goodnight and the inspector replies with, “Not yet. I’m waiting.” Mrs Birling asks the Inspector what he’s waiting for and the inspector says, “To do my duty”. Because Eric is absent from the house at this point, we see that the Inspector is probably waiting for Eric.
Priestley freezes the action between acts to create tension. Act one ends with the Inspector