AIC: Conflict


From the moment the Inspector enters, the question running through the play is ‘who did it?’. Although at the beginning of the play, the Birling family try to keep the answer ‘no one here’ the Inspector’s ongoing questioning and the rising tension forces the family to point the finger which causes some conflict.

Mrs Birling doesn’t hold back in telling the Inspector as she told Eva herself that the person to blame for putting her in the disadvantaged situation that she was in is, is no one’s responsibility but the father of her baby (“if the girl’s death is due to anybody, then it’s due to him”), after previously blaming her own husband too (“please remember before you start accusing me of anything that it wasn’t I who had her turned out of employment – which probably began it all”) and anyone else who she can blame, (“Unlike the other three, I did nothing that I’m ashamed of or that won’t bear investigation”). This act of blaming to save oneself is a starting point for conflict within the family but isn’t the only time we see it.

The family turn to conflict at the end of the play when the elder members (including Gerald) dismiss it as a hoax and celebrate their untouched status and wealth, whereas Sheila and Eric are ashamed of their actions and angered by the fact that the others are not. Eric reminds his family “the fact remains that I did what I did. And mother did what she did. And the rest of you did what you did to her” and Sheila is angered by her family’s dismissal of the Inspector’s message: “(with sudden alarm) Mother-stop-stop! Between us we drove that girl to commit suicide.” This anger that Eric and Sheila feel towards their family continues the conflict after the Inspector leaves.

Download the Tension Worksheet.