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Consider the dramatic importance of the entrance of the Inspector in Act 1 and his exit in Act 3 Although the inspector does not enter until a while into the play, it is clear that his presence will shock the Birling family. The play is set in a house of a reasonable middle upper class family. The family’s attire is very formal and displays to the audience the family’s wealth. The entrance of the inspector brings a massive amount of dramatic irony and his entrance is immensely important to the views Priestley is trying to portray in the play.
Likewise his exit lulls the family into a false sense of security. A sense of security that is promptly removed from them. The play is set in 1912,however it was written in 1945. Therefore Priestley uses the power of retrospect to plant clever irony throughout the play. I believe Priestley had a didactic purpose to tell a moral story as a product of the play. The props used are that of a typical wealthy household from the early twentieth century, however Priestley gives these “normal” objects a lot more emphasis.
Birling is an extremely pompous and arrogant character. He has strong beliefs and is clearly not easily swayed in his views. It is obvious Birling has worked hard for his wealth and is excessively proud of his status in current society. Birling also stresses this numerous times to all the characters he is involved in dialogue with right through the play, For example ” I was lord mayor two years ago.” The audience is shown immediately that Birling is a very proud person; Priestley uses dialogue to impact this on the audience. Birling basks in his high social status and is elated at the fact that his daughter is marrying “above them,” another building block for Birling’s oversized ego.
Birling also imposes long, drawn out speeches on the audience that turn out to be completely contradicted throughout the play. Birling’s assumptions are proved to be wrong and things he thought would be an unrealistic joke actually become reality. For example, “I gather there’s a very good chance of a knighthood, so long as we behave ourselves.” A typical example of how Birling is contradicted on a large scale as the play unfolds. The play is constructed very precisely; almost everything that comes from Birling’s mouth is eventually reduced to nothing. Another good example is Birling’s views on war “nobody wants war” he claims. Whereas both Priestley and the audience are fully aware that war does occur. Bringing with it more irony and adding to Priestley’s constant mockery of Birling.
Previous to the inspector’s entrance, the atmosphere in the Birling household is highly warm, celebratory and comfortable. The family is celebrating a successful engagement that will result in the Birling’s furthering their status. Birling is feeling confident and therefore he makes some smug, pompous speeches to his family. Almost everything he says is false in retrospect. Irony is increased, as Birling gives Eric and Gerald a speech on how to live their lives, the audience are aware that Birling should definitely not preach about this subject. The dramatic impact of the doorbell is immense and plays a huge role in the play as it interrupts a typical Birling lecture, symbolising the end of Birling being “Top dog.”