Act 1: How Does Priestley Create A Sense Of Unease And Suggest That Mr Birling’s Optimism Is Unfounded?

840 words - 4 pages

Act 1: - How does Priestley create a sense of unease and suggest that Mr Birling’s optimism is unfounded?

As Act 1 of An Inspector Calls continues we see that Arthur Birling seems to be a confident and powerful man who is clearly anxious to be seen as a successful businessman and the head of his family. He is apparently very pleased with the way life is turning out for him and the other Birlings.

Priestley sets the play in 1912 but it was first performed in 1945. He quite deliberately proceeds to make Mr Birling speak, in these first scenes of An Inspector Calls of events which the audience would know all about. A lot of what he dismisses as ‘wild talk’ and ‘nonsense’ actually ...view middle of the document...

The blind optimism shown here by Birling results in even stronger dramatic irony. As this is such a major misjudgment by Birling the sense that something in his life is about to go wrong without him foreseeing it, is further increased.

Another example of Priestley’s use of dramatic irony to create a sense of unease is the reference to the Titanic. Birling uses the ship as an example of man’s great technological advances. He specifically says that it is “absolutely unsinkable” and reels of it’s qualities and statistics, saying “That’s what you’ve got to keep your eye on, facts like that’ not the words of ‘scaremongers.’ This shows the audience that Birling has an arrogant side to him, one that may result in problems for him and those close to him further into the play. This example of his over optimistic outlook, yet again, builds a sense of unease in the scene as well as in the audience’s view of the family’s prospects.

Birling’s optimism is founded on his success and wealth; he does repeatedly stress how hard he has worked and how experienced in business he is. It is however, his anxiety about his social status that underpins this pompous optimism and dismissal of problems. He is very presumptuous. This is shown when he makes it clear...

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