The use of irony towards the historical context in the play demonstrates Mr Birling’s disregard for all those around him. The first instance is when he shows his ignorance towards the issues of War. “You’ll hear some people say that war is inevitable. And to that I say – fiddlesticks!” Mr Birling is certain that a war will never come to pass, the audience are aware that two wars have taken place. These Wars have caused devastation and destruction, which play a major part in the reformation of upper and lower classes, which is very important issue to the Birling family. The word “fiddlesticks!” exaggerates Mr Birling’s disrespect toward the matter and the exclamation mark following shows us how strong he believes that war will not happen. Priestley uses this as a way of drawing attention to this quotation, as it is a vital part in the play.
Priestley also uses irony when Birling brings up ‘The Titanic’ and the idea of it being an unsinkable ship. The audience is however, aware that it does sink. With the play being set in 1912 and being performed in 1946 creates tension in the audience through the different levels of knowledge they have with the characters. The relationships between the characters seem to change quite a lot throughout the play. We also see conflict between the Inspector and Mr. Birling.
“I don’t like that tone.” This shows Mr. Birling’s determination towards portraying his higher status role. He wishes to keep authority as he is of a higher social standing than Inspector Goole, and believes that the police Inspector should know his place in society. We see the Inspector infuriating Mr. Birling to a point where he feels he needs to regain the authority. The Inspector replies to questions with short, simple and clipped answers, “some of them-yes”. Mr. Birling feels that speaking to him like that is rudeness. This creates tension because the audience understands that conflict produces an uneasy atmosphere.
As a whole, the entire scene is made more dramatic through all of the techniques combined. I believe there are two main techniques that create significant tension. The first technique is the portrayal and actions of the Inspector. This leads to an intimidating atmosphere, which manifests tension in both the character and audience. The second technique is the ironic mentioning of events in historical context. The audience is aware of the devastating events that come to pass after 1912, but the character’s disregard, especially Birling, creates drama through their ignorance.