The stage directions are vitally important in this scene because it shows how the characters are feeling mentally whilst showing their physical and vocal actions. At the start of the scene we see the inspector speaking “sternly”. He then delivers a comment about Eva Smith; “she changed her name to Daisy Renton-“. This pause at the end creates tension completed by the “startled” manner of Gerald’s reaction. This tells the audience that the young man is the next victim for the Inspector to meticulously interview so he can prove that he is jointly responsible for the death of the woman. It was only a question of time.
Gerald’s tone of voice and acting tells the audience what he had been doing to Sheila. By acting the innocent just made him more guilty “(trying to smile) Well what, Sheila”. When Sheila realises what has been going on during the spring with Eva Smith, she asked questions about when and if he was really busy with work. The writer cleverly uses the technique of silence to further emphasise the apprehension which is created from the play at that moment in time. The audience feels the tension between the couple because they know that they are engaged and their marriage is in jeopardy.
Priestley cleverly made sure that the Inspector is a relaxed character, even when people are being aggressive towards him. He speaks in a slow approach; this creates tension between the characters which the audience can sense when it occurs. “(steadily) I said she changed her name to Daisy Renton.” Slowing down the swiftness of the play makes people think and take in what is going on in the play. Further more, if I was Gerald and just found out that I was involved in the suicide of Eva Smith I would be annoyed and shocked; “(startled) What?” This is essential to the play because it makes the characters more lifelike because they have instincts which the audience can recognise.
The inspector is also very aggressive when it comes to summarising what happened to Eva Smith and how a particular character contributed to her suicide. The revelation of Gerald having Eva Smith as a mistress came as a shock because the characters are superficial throughout the play; he presented an image of being dedicated to Sheila. This therefore makes the audience think twice about the behaviour and mannerisms of the other characters in the play including Mr Birling and Sheila previously.
Priestley cleverly uses the stage directions to demonstrate Gerald’s state of mind with the stage direction: “SHEILA merely nods, still staring at him, and he goes across to the Tantalus on the sideboard for a whisky.” This shows the audience that he is clearly nervous about the whole situation of owning up to Sheila about what has been going on. The use of alcohol to calm the nerves and this is a good use of the play showing nerves and strain on the characters to the viewers.
When the inspector makes the wise decision to leave Sheila and Gerald the audience view the struggling Gerald trying to maintain his dignity against the inquisitive Sheila incensed by his actions with Eva Smith. When he tries to deny his actions it only makes the tension grow because it is obvious by his reactions to when he first heard about Daisy Renton he was “(pulling himself together)”.
Priestley made a very good decision in leaving Gerald and Sheila to argue to themselves in front of the audience. This is because it shows their true character which is not meant to be seen in front of guests, especially the inspector; “Yes we can keep it from him.” The image of a polite, well mannered upper class family has been obliterated by the inspector. The audience realises this and can only sense the pressure in the house. In the last sentence which Sheila says is aimed at the crowd “You’ll see. You’ll see”. This is a clever way of making the play more exciting because it makes the viewers eager to watch the rest of the play because there are exciting things to happen.
When the Inspector reappears at the end of the act there is a cunning dramatic moment when “The door slowly opens and the INSPECTOR appears, looking steadfastly and searchingly at them.” The door symbolises a new part in the play meaning that the inspector is going to reveal the secrets which the character is hiding to the others. It is obvious that it is only time until he knows exactly what went on between Eva Smith; the inspector looks at him as his next prey in “the chain of events”. The act ends in suspense when the inspector simply says “Well?” The people who are watching the play want to see what Gerald has to say, because the upper classes have been revealed as being not so faultless after all.
Priestley uses many different techniques in creating tension which is vital in making the play interesting and addictive to watch for the audience. The tone of voice, body language and even silence at the right moments create apprehension throughout the two pages which I have analysed. The play is based on the “responsibility” of the characters which are all involved throughout. This main theme is what links all the people in the play together.