Throughout the play Priestley keeps the audience interested and in suspense. He does this by carefully manipulating the Inspector’s responses to each character to keep the action of the plot moving forward. Some ways he does this is by making sure that the inspector is only doing one line of inquiry at a time. ‘It’s the way I like to work. One person and one line of enquire at a time. Otherwise there’s a muddle’.
.This proves that Priestley meant to keep the action going forward which makes the play less confusing for the audience which keeps them interested in the play. Another way Priestley keeps the audience interested is by making the Inspector recap the story and the information that has been given so far at regular intervals. This makes the story easier to understand for the audience and makes the audience see things that they might have missed.
The inspector focusing on each character in turn in a certain order slowly develops the plot of the play. For example when the inspector interviews Mr Birling, he reacts angrily towards the inspector. Mr Birling also tries to use his class against the Inspector to try and show the Inspector that he is better than him. ‘Perhaps I ought to warn you that he’s an old friend of mine and that I see him fairly frequently. We play golf together sometimes up at West Brumley’ Here Mr Birling is trying to use his status and his social class to scare the inspector but it does not work. Here Priestley is trying to say that the audience should not hide behind their social class. Priestley uses Mr Birling to represent the upper classes attitude and actions towards the working class. Mr Birling also does not show respect to the Inspector.
Even Mrs Birling’s interview shows that she is ignorant, arrogant and a hypocrite. She cannot see that she should be helping all people who come to her charity for help and as part of a charity she should not be prejudice to any case. ‘Inspector: – So you admit being prejudice against her case? Mrs Birling: – Yes’ This shows that she is unaware of how worse life is for people of working classes and that she should help them however and whenever she can. She is also quite arrogant and big headed and thinks that problems do not involve her so why should she be sorry for them. ‘Im very sorry, but I think she only has herself to blame’. We also find out that she is hypocritical. She is saying that the person who got this Eva Smith pregnant is responsible for her but when she finds out it is her son Eric she thinks that Eric should not get any blame.
‘But I didn’t know it was you – I never dreamt. Besides you’re not the type – you don’t get drunk -‘ This shows that she does not care if it is someone else’s problem and thinks that they should take all the blame. However, if it is her son then he should get away with it. This again shows her ignorance about Erics drinking even after Sheila tells her about it. By this Priestley wants to show us that the upper class treat the working class worse than people in their own class. Following the Inspector’s questioning of Sheila, we find that she reacts guiltily towards her past actions towards Eva smith. She is genuinely sad about what she has done and feels bad about herself and for Eva Smith.
‘…It’s the only time I’ve ever done anything like that, and I’ll never, never do it again to anybody…’ By this Priestley wanted to show us why we should listen to younger people because they can embrace new ideas and can accept new lifestyles easily. In addition, Priestly wanted to show us how the older generation can be set in their ways and do not embrace change easily. From both Gerald and Eric’s interviews, it seems that they both use their positions to manipulate and abuse Eva Smith. Gerald, at first, helped her out of a bad situation, housed her, and cared for her. Soon after this, he starts to use her and she becomes his mistress, ‘Yes. I suppose it was inevitable. She was young and pretty and warm hearted – and intensely grateful. I became at once the most important person in her life – you understand?’
Gerald is the only person in Eva’s life that treated her well. He gave her lodging, money, care and possibly loves her. In the end, though Gerald could not accommodate her in that house forever because his friend is coming back. Gerald then gave her enough money to last her a month or two and had to make her leave the house. Eva knew that it would not last forever but when she is forced to leave, she used the money to make her happiness last longer by going away for two months on holiday. Gerald at first appears to care quite deeply for Eva Smith ‘In that case – as im rather more – upset – by this business than I probably appear to be – and – well, I’d like to be alone for a while…’ Later in the play we find out that he does not feel sorry for her because he tries to forget her and cover up what happened and heads the idea that all that happened when the inspector did his enquiries hoax.