Drama at the End of Act Two in An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley
What do you think is particularly dramatic about the section at the
end of Act Two when Mrs Birling is
In directing the drama how would you bring out the drama?
The play of Inspector Calls by J. B. Priestley is made dramatic
because it is all about an investigation of a suicide and how each
family member is responsible. That is the whole aim of the play (in
the Inspectors words): “We are all responsible for each other.”
The theme of the play is affected by when the play was produced in
1946, after World War Two when the Welfare State was being introduced.
Priestley supports the topical issues in the play and shows how the
Welfare State is needed by ordinary people. He is also trying to prove
that society is not equal, even after the Second World War.
In this section at the end of Act Two we find out that Mrs Birling
was the final person who drove Eva Smith, who was pregnant at the
time, to her suicide. However we do not yet know how Eric met Eva and
what the circumstances were. This leads to tension and suspense. By
the end of the first two acts, every member of the Birling family (and
Gerald) has been questioned except Eric, so the audience have already
realized that a dramatic pattern is unfolding. Suspense is also
created when Eric left the stage in Act Two because the audience do
not know the reason for his disappearance; this situation leads onto a
dramatic climax when Eric re-enters the stage at the end of Act Two.
However, if you study the Inspector closely, his methods are quite
different from other inspectors because he is pressurizing and almost
slightly blackmailing the family members. He does this in a way that
is full of authority which adds to his dramatic personality.
Mrs Birling changes dramatically in this section because as the
inspector starts to question her, her replies show that she is
confident and proud: “Yes, we’ve done a great deal of useful work in
helping deserving cases.” When the Inspector asks her about the name
Eva used to approach the charity, her reply to the Inspector shows she
is certain that she is innocent: “I think it was simply a piece of
gross impertinence – quite deliberate – and naturally that was on of
the things that prejudiced me against her case.” At this point Mrs
Birling could also fold her arms as she says this and look very smug.
By doing this, she can express the feeling that she is pleased with
herself and is not regretting her decision. However, as the Inspector
begins to discuss her reasons for refusing to help Eva, Mrs Birling
chooses not to answer: “I don’t think we need to discuss it.” I would
direct the actress to look hard at the Inspector and...