The mood in Act 1 changes from relaxed to tense. Explore the ways Priestley transforms the tone throughout Act 1 of An Inspector Calls.

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kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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At the beginning of Act 1, there is a mood of celebration as the group celebrates Sheila and Gerald’s engagement. There are hints of tension; for example when Sheila refers to the fact that Gerald was curiously absent

 all last summer

The members of the party congratulate each other for their successes. Mr. Birling notes when toasting the couple-

Sheila’s a lucky girl – and I think you’re a pretty fortunate young man too, Gerald.

The tone begins to change with Birling’s speech. His words on the prospect of

 steadily increasing prosperity

is littered with errors which the audience would clearly note. He discusses how there

 isn’t a chance of war

and how the Titanic is

 absolutely unsinkable

From this point we realize that Birling is an unreliable judge of events and character, but is convinced of his point of view. When he is giving manly guidance to Gerald and Eric, we realize that these words will be similarly misguided-

a man has to make his own way--look after himself

The arrival of the inspector quickly dampens the spirits of the party as he reveals the horrific death of a young woman. The tone changes as the inspector takes charge of the situation, questioning each member of the party to reveal their social failings in respect of the young woman. By the end of Act 1, Sheila no longer feels “lucky”, and she is devastated by her own cruelty.

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