Priestley hint at the tensions
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In Act 1 of An Inspector calls, Priestly makes it crucial that he sets out hints of conflicts and tension that later become clear to the reader. He is careful in his creation of tension through themes that occur throughout the play, which guide the reader through the text in what reveals itself to be a cautious downfall of an apparent secure and wealthy family structure. As the scene begins, Priestley describes it scene in detail giving the audience an impression of a heavily comfortable household. Priestley says that the “lighting should be pink and intimate” suggesting an important evening, where the family are having a good time and are pleased with themselves. However, just before the inspector comes, the lighting becomes “brighter and harder” diffusing the families’ intimacy and hinting that not all is as it seems.
For example early on, we wonder whether the happy atmosphere is slightly forced Mr and Mrs Berlin are sitting at opposite sides of the table, suggesting that they have a distance between them therefore hinting towards the cracks in the family. In addition to this, tension is built through dramatic irony when Sheila wonders where Gerald disappeared to last summer. The reader is allowed to see through the perfect scene that Priestley created at the beginning of the scene and actually realise that there’s a sense of secrecy that lingers in the room. When Sheila suspects this, Mrs Berlin shuts her up, by stating that “when you’re married you’ll have to remember that men have important work to do sometimes” this highlights on the different mind-set of the older and younger generation. Sheila doesn’t believe that she will as time had changed from her mother’s time.
The old are set in their ways. They are utterly confident that they are right and they see the young as foolish. For example Berlin believes he’s right about the war, but the audience and the reader know that it does happen and that berlin is too naive. On the other hand, the young are open to new ideas. This is first seen early in Act 1 when both Eric and Sheila express sympathy for the strikers – an idea which horrifies Birling, who can only think of production costs and ignores the human side of the issue. Sheila says “these girls aren’t just cheap labour they are people”
We can also see the hint of tension with the view of capitalism vs. socialism in the family. Mr Berlin is clearly a capitalist, who only cares about his business and money. He believes that socialist ideas that stress the importance of the community are “nonsense” and that “a man has to make his own way” However Eric seems to hold more of a socialist view, for example when Mr Belin is talking about war and the interest of the capital, Eric keeps trying to interrupt him, saying “yes, I know but still-” The way Eric is opposing his father adds to the tensions in act 1. Furthermore Eric suggest that his father overacted by throwing Eva out saying that he didn’t see why she should have been sacked just because she asked for a bit more.
But Mr Berlin reply’s by saying “if you don’t come down harshly on some of these people they’d soon be asking for the earth” This highlights he’s capitalist views and that he only cares about himself and that the workers do not mean anything to him. Mr Birling is dismissive of the several hundred women in his factory: “We were paying the usual rates and if they didn’t like those rates, they could go and work somewhere else.” this suggests that he didn’t really care about the women and that they were people that could be easily disposed of. Similarly, Eric states that “you’d think a girl never had any cloths before she got married”
In conclusion, priestly creates these hints of tensions in the themes that occur through the play to highlight important evens that later become clear later on in the play. He explores tension in the idea of socialism vs. capitalism, gender, social class and the family. Priestley presents Sheila in the play as a representation of the conflict between individual and social obligations through the capitalist beliefs. In act one; we know that Sheila is upset with Gerald due to the fact that he didn’t spend much time with her the summer before. However when Gerald presents to her the engagement ring and she puts it on, she admires and says that she is very excited and that she will never let it go out of her sight for an instant. This clearly epitomizes the fact that she believes that her engagement to Gerald will bring her and her family up in their social class.
We can also tell that moving in the social ladder is very important to the berlins especially the parents as they continuously suck up to Gerald. Mr birling boasts about his business and wealth and even feels the need to mention to Gerald that he drinks the same wine as his parents. In additions he makes a speech about being very happy that Sheila is engaged as he knows what comes in for him. Similarly Mrs birling stops Sheila from expressing how she feels about Gerald’s disappearance, but she shuts her up by saying that women just have to get used to them type of things. It clearly shows that the billings are dependent on Sheila to bring them up in the social ladder and links to the fact that they have as capitalist way of thinking. Sheila refuses to be submissive to this and lead up to the expectations of the 20th century’s gender roles. Though this is the case, Sheila fails to meets these expectations by the end of the book as she returns Gerald’s ring back to him after the inspector leave s and says she’s needs time to thinks about it.
Priestley indicated that Sheila is in a progressive generation and she represents the breakdown of the capitalist regime. She is the one to warn the others of the way the inspector really is and she is the one who also reveals Eric’s drinking problem. She uses interrogatives and continuously acts the inspector questions about what I going on. She is assertive and answers back to her father and Gerald and we see how her and Gerald relationship is gradually been broken down. The she faces so much emotional turmoil we see that that is what the capitalist ideology does to people. We can also argue that Sheila is representative of the clash between the older and younger generations. Sheila can be perceived as the conscience of the capitalist regime due to the breakdown of the family which is connoted as a microcosm suggesting the breakdown in the capitalist and socialist regime and Sheila been representative of all of that
The inspector is representative of Sheila’s deconstruction which may subliminally suggest that the destruction of the capitalism through the breakdown of the family structure which is exemplary of the microcosm but it can be argued that priestly intensions is to make us question either both beliefs of capital social actually works. But if this is the case priestly doesn’t suggest any solutions to the problems therefore leaving s with the message of taking responsibility for our own actions and thinking of those who it may affect.