This revelation adds dramatic tension and draws the reader in.
What happened? Why? What has this got to do with the Birling family? Are all questions the audience will be asking themselves. Priestley has done this purposely, he could have just said, ‘Id like some information, if you don’t mind Mr Birling. A young girl has died tonight, suicide, and I am here to find out why’ but instead he adds heavy description of the ‘strong’ disinfectant that she drank, which ‘burn her inside out’.He could have course stopped there, but instead carried on to describe the great agony in which she died and how nothing could be done for her.
This immediately makes the audience feel compassion for the dead girl and makes the tension in the Birling house change from the happy, content atmosphere of the party to one of nervous unease, as Mr Birling is desperate to avoid a scandal and lose his knighthood. Mr Birling feels sorry for the girl but cannot wait to get rid of the Inspector and the possibility that his family might have been involved.Birling: (rather impatiently) ‘Yes, yes. Horrid business.
But I don’t understand why you should come here Inspector-‘ This detailed description has instantly put Mr Birling on edge. Then later when Sheila enters the room and after a short argument with Birling about whether Sheila needs to be present, the Inspector tells Sheila, Inspector: (impressively) ‘I’m a police inspector, Miss Birling. This afternoon a young woman drank some disinfectant, and died, after several hours of agony, tonight in the Infirmary’ He says this in such a way as to make a firm impression on the young and very impressionable Sheila, stating that she ‘dies after several hours of agony’. This unnecessary description shocks Sheila, Sheila: ‘Oh-how horrible! Was it an accident?’ and makes it easier for him to question her. Later when he faces the cold-hearted Mrs Birling he applies this use of graphic detail to try and break down the wall Mrs Birling has built between herself (the upper-classes) and the girl (the middle-lower classes).Inspector: ‘That doesn’t make it any less yours. She came to you for help, at a time when no woman could have needed it more. And you not only refused it yourself but saw to it that others refused it too.
She was here alone, friendless, almost penniless, desperate. She needed not only money but advice, sympathy, friendliness. You’ve had children. You must have known what she was feeling. And you slammed the door in her face’ Words such as alone, penniless, desperate, and slammed the door in her face, add to the sense of sympathy and atmosphere and soon even the other characters are swayed into feeling sorry for the girl, Mr Birling: (dubiously) ‘I must say, Sybil, that when this comes out at the inquest, it isn’t going to do us much good?’But Mrs Birling is quick to defend herself. Mrs Birling: (agitated) ‘Oh, stop it, both of you. And please remember before you start accusing me of anything again that it wasn’t I who had her turned out of her employment- which probably began it all?’ The Inspector later returns to his use of shock tactics when he is interrogating Eric. He reveals to Eric how his mother turned away the girl, thus killing her own grandchild and Eric’s child, this enrages Eric and causes him to turn on his mother and become threatening.
Inspector: (with calm authority) ‘I’ll tell you. She went to your mother’s committee for help, after she’d done with you. Your mother refused that help.Eric: (nearly at breaking point) ‘Then-you killed her. She came to you to protect me- and you turned her away-yes, and you killed her-and the child she’d have had too-my child-your own grandchild-you killed them both-damn you, damn you-‘ Mrs Birling: (very distressed now) ‘No-Eric-please-I didn’t know- I didn’t understand-‘ Eric: (almost threatening her) ‘You don’t understand anything.
You never did.You never even tried-you-‘ Sheila: (frightened) ‘Eric, don’t-don’t-‘ Birling: (furious, intervening) ‘Why, you hysterical young fool- get back- or I’ll-‘ Inspector: (taking charge, masterfully) ‘Stop!’ his revelation to Eric that his mother could have saved the girl and his child enrages Eric causing him to turn on his mother, this shocks the other characters who try to intervene and stop Eric from doing or saying something stupid. Mr Birling becomes furious that Eric is almost threatening his mother and in turn threatens to get violent with Eric. The Inspector’s shock tactic here results in anger and forces the characters to turn on one another thus making it easier for him to question them and make them see what they have each done wrong, as they no longer have the other characters to hide behind.A more subtle use of shock tactic by the Inspector is when back in the beginning of the play, the Inspector mentions the girl’s, Eva Smiths, name change which startles Gerald who immediately asks Sheila for a drink, giving away that he knew the girl. Inspector: …
Now she had to try something else. So she changed her name to Daisy Renton-‘ Gerald: (startled) ‘What?’ Inspector: (steadily) ‘I said she changed her name to Daisy Renton.Gerald: (pulling himself together) ‘D’you mind if I give myself a drink, Sheila?’ Sheila merely nods. ‘Well Gerald?’ Gerald: (trying to smile) ‘Well what, Sheila?’ Sheila: How did you come to know this girl- Eva Smith?’Gerald: ‘I didn’t’ Sheila: ‘Daisy Renton then- it’s the same thing.’ Gerald: ‘Why should I have known her?’ Sheila: ‘oh don’t be stupid.
We haven’t much time. You gave yourself away as soon as he mentioned her other name.’ The Inspectors use of shock tactic through out the play helps him a great deal. It is the use of shock tactic of the girls name change that reveals that Gerald knew the girl, the shocking revelation to Eric that his mother turned away the girl, causes anger and for members of the family to turn against each other making it easy for him to question them.The Inspectors uses graphic detail to guilt Mrs Birling into admitting she knew the girl and to break down the wall she had built between herself and the girl, making it easier for him to try to teach her how she should have behaved towards the girl. Lastly right at the beginning of the play, when the Inspector first arrives he uses such graphic detail of the girl’s death, that it shocks the characters and makes it easier for him to investigate them for the rest of the play.