J.B.Priestley creates strong tension in his play, ‘An Inspector Calls’. Each character has played a part in the death of a young woman Eva Smith. At the beginning of the play all the family are cheerfully celebrating the engagement of Sheila and Gerald. When the Inspector joins the play the atmosphere changes. He sets each family member against the other. Now it’s Eric’s turn. At this particular point in the play Preistley creates dramatic tension and high drama in Act 3 Pg 50-57 J.B. he has already built up some tension but the real climax of the play is in this scene. The audience and characters have already come to the conclusion that Eric was the father of Eva Smiths unborn child. Eric has been out of the room while his mother, trying to eradicate herself and her family from blame condemns “the father of her unborn child” as entirely responsible.
J.B.Priesley creates the feelings of tension, disharmony and discord in many ways. For instance his use of adverbs. Adverbs describe the way the actor says the line. They come at the beginning of a speech, and tell the actor if he should emphasise, dwell or stress certain words or not. The adverbs are usually in italics, and in brackets. In this scene the adverbs are ones such as (explosively) and (savagely). These words convey the tension in the scene to both actor and audience.
J.B.Priestley uses other techniques as well. Exclamation marks are used too, but not as frequently and not as many times as his other techniques. Exclamation marks also emphasises the line. The speech becomes all the more dramatic, “Oh-my God! How stupid it all is!” J.B.Priestley writes lots of dashes in to the speeches in this scene. They represent a pause the actor takes; “Eric (miserably): I got it – from the office-” this creates anticipation and gets the audience to try to predict what the actor will say next. Short speeches are also used, instead of the long drawn out speeches of the beginning of the play. The characters are uncertain e.g. Mr Birling. This adds tension for the aurdience. Therefore the characters are not so predictable.
Into these short sentences the characters cut into each other’s speeches. It’s as if they have to get their opinions voiced, and their questions answered. “But I didn’t know it was you- I never dreamt. Besides, your not that type- you don’t get drunk-” ” Of course he does. I told you he did.” There is a power shift, which also comes to a conclusion in pages 50-57. In the beginning Mr Birling and to some extent Mrs Birling were the powerful figures. But when the Inspector arrives the atmosphere changes, the Inspector is the Powerful figure.
Mr Birling is the head of his house and head of his business he isn’t used to having his authority questioned. Again, this uncertainly adds to the tension. J.B.Priestley also uses stage directions to create dramatic tension. The directions in Act One the characters as all charming and pleased with themselves. ‘They now have all the glasses filled. Birling beams at them and clearly relaxed.’
However in Act 3 it is entirely different “He walks straight out, leaving them staring, subdued and wondering. Sheila is still quietly crying Mrs Birling, has collapsed into a chair. Eric is brooding desperately. Birling the only one active one, hears the front door slam, moves hesitatingly towards the door, stops, looks gloomily at the other three, then pours himself out a drink, which he hastily swallows.” That’s how J.B.Priestley created dramatic tension in this scene.