Another technique used in the Inspector’s interrogating methods to good effect, is the idea of using shock tactics. The shock tactics play on the characters’ consciences and create feelings of anxiety. The inspector describes Eva Smith as being “Burnt inside out”, this creates a disturbing image in both the audience and characters alike. The use of the emotive word “Burnt”, highlights to both audience and characters the pain and suffering Eva Smith had to endure as a result of the Birling family. The response from Eric, “My God!” sums up the he reaction from the audience. Eric, as well as the audience, is disgusted by how a woman, even at the time, could go to such lengths because she was unhappy. The tension is raised, because the audience is left feeling uneasy because of the treatment Eva Smith suffered.
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The Inspector’s name, “Goole” immediately creates a gloomy and mysterious atmosphere. The word “Goole” is a pun on the word “ghoul” which is often associated with ghosts or spirits. The Inspector might represent Eva Smith’s spirit and is possible communicating the pain she has suffered as a result of the Birling Family’s disregard. The Inspector may also be looked upon as a representation of mankind’s conscience. The use of the Inspector’s character is a powerful technique Priestley employs to communicate one of his moral views.
The Inspector uses irony to make the characters feel tense. The Inspector makes the characters feel uncomfortable by twisting their words. Birling states that the lower-class citizens will be asking for more in the near future, “They’d soon be asking for the earth”, the Inspector replies with, “It’s better to ask for the earth than take it.”. The Inspector comments in this way in order to try and make the Mr. Birling feel guilty for keeping the majority of the profit for himself, this quotation also links in, when we find out that Eric has been stealing. However, Birling is surprised, as he has never had anyone speak to him with such disrespect before, especially from a policeman who is looked upon as a lower class citizen.
The use of staging mechanics and props creates tension in the scene. The suspense is emphasized when we hear the doorbell ring. At this early point in the play Mr. Birling feels that he is too important to answer his own front door. “Edna’ll answer it.” This shows to the audience that Birling’s character is a very arrogant and believes that he is superior to those around him. However, later in the play we see a change in Mr. Birling when he insists to answer the front door himself.
“Now who’s this? Had I better go?” This change is apparent because Birling has experienced the type of treatment that lower class citizens received. Similarly, considerable tension is being created using telephones. Whilst Birling is on the telephone, we are only able to hear one side of the conversation. “I see…yes…well, that settles it…. No, just a little argument we were having here…. Good-night.” The short, sharp responses from Birling suggest that he is being intimidated and is trying to regain his status. Also, this engages the audience’s attention as it allows them to think for themselves what the Chief Constable is saying, based purely on the small responses of Birling. This creates a dramatic scene.
The change in lighting is a technique that can be used onstage to show a change in mood. At the beginning of the play, the family is enjoying the celebrations honouring the engagement of Shelia and Gerald. The colour of the lighting is pink. The colour pink is often associated with love and conveys a sense of intimacy and close relationships in a warm atmosphere. When the Inspector enters the lighting becomes much “brighter and harder”, creating tension and a feeling of uneasiness.
It is this “brighter and harder” light that causes an uncomfortable atmosphere. The use of these words makes the characters feel intimidated and tense because the concentration is being focused them. The word “brighter” can be related to something that stands out and the word “harder” is associated with something that is difficult to deal with. The lighting, alone, shows the audience that the entrance of the Inspector is a significant point in the play and creates a considerable amount of tension, because the abnormal and awkward atmosphere intimidates the characters.
The timing of entrances have a rather significant effect on the scene, Priestley uses the entrances of characters to create maximum tension in the scene. When Shelia enters and is inquisitive about what is going on, “What’s this about the streets?” We see Mr. Birling trying to defend his daughter from the suicide issue. “Nothing to do with you, Sheila. Run along”. He says this because in the era the play is set, women were considered the fairer/more-protected sex, and Birling feels that his daughter would be incapable of coping with the death of Eva Smith.
However, the Inspector believes that women should also take liability for their actions, and thinks that protecting the women can be seen as patronizing. The words “Run along” are predominantly patronizing, as Birling is ordering a grown women as if she was a young child. This highlights the tedious relationship between Shelia and her father, and portrays to the audience the idea that Shelia is often told what to do by her father, and always obeys the given orders.