An Inspector Calls- Characters

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  • Characters
    • A morality play that promotes the need for social responsibility in the audience
      • set 1912- pre-war
      • first performed 1946- post WW2
      • Priestley wants audience to not go back to how society used to be
    • Mr Birling
      • presented as arrogant, opinionated, pompous, narrow-minded and a snob
      • provincial accent- evidence of his upward social mobility (not critiqued)
      • has no empathy for the struggle of working class
        • unsympathetic, audience are not meant to like him
      • capitalist viewpoint- shown to be selfish
        • views of  future prosperity shown to be naive and unfounded- political& ideology opinions are flawed
          • dramatic irony
        • end- doesn't learn his lesson and refuses to accept responsibility for part in Eva Smith's death
      • dominant and controlling
    • Mrs Birling
      • entirely compatible with Mr Birling
        • socially superior to husband
      • cold and lacks emotions; a product of Victorian stoicism
        • most resistant to inspector
        • snob and patronising towards everyone
      • aware of differences between social classes- seeks to maintain status quo
        • charitable work, motivated by her controlling nature
      • end- doesn't learn lesson- refuses to accept responsibility
    • Sheila
      • initially presented as frivolous and carefree
      • compassiona-te before involvement with Eva Smith is revealed
        • evident remorse- feels responsible
      • perceptive- notices Eric and Gerald's involvement first
      • end- accepts notion of social responsibility- changed as a character
        • anger with parents- frustration with their lack of remorse
    • Eric
      • awkward young man, uneasy at start
      • tension between him and his father
        • heavy drinker- perhaps because of tension
      • shares Sheila's empathy for the rights of the workers
      • responsibility- discovering Eva's pregnancy
        • guilty and remorseful about involvement
          • aware of his social responsibility & is ashamed of his parents at the end
    • Gerald
      • aristocrat and leads a ******* lifestyle
      • does not admit involvement at first- protest interests
        • drives theory that the inspector is fake
        • rather than changing, concerned about protecting reputation
          • end-hasn't changed
      • suggestion of genuine feeling for Eva Smith- moved upon her death
    • Eva Smith
      • represents the working class
      • does not appear on stage- working class do not have a voice in society
        • Smith is a common surname- represents a large cross- section of society
        • level of ambiguity- not a specific person, working class in general
      • honest and hard working
        • actions contradict the Birling's pre-conceived judgement of the working class
    • Inspector
      • dominant and forceful- clashes with the Birlings
      • drives central conflict of the play
      • methodical and systematic in his duty- tension and mystery
      • authoritative figure- not intimidated by the Birlings
      • delivers Priestley's central message of social responsibility
      • end- revealed he is not a real person- emphasis mystique of character


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