Gerald Croft is, like the Birlings, a member of the upper class. He is described as "very much the easy well-bred young man about town". He is slightly older than Eric, and seems far more assured, confident and capable of dealing with awkward situations, though at the end he does not show the strength of character which Eric displays by accepting his part in Eva's death.
His social mobility and aptitude is shown by his remark on the dinner as "Absolutely first-class"
Gerald's manner in the opening scene, before Goole's appearance, reflects his confident, relaxed approach to life. Birling tells him "You're just the kind of son-in-law I always wanted". Gerald proves to be similar to Mr Birling in his views of business and of women. They seem to share the same views about "breaking out" (i.e. indulging in clandestine affairs) after the women have left the room, and seem also to know something about Eric which makes him uneasy: "Unless Eric's been up to something".
There is a certain, unspoken understanding between the men, implying that secrets are acceptabe between men, as long as the women don't find out. This impression is reinforced when Birling tries to intercede on Gerald's behalf: "Now Sheila, you must understand that a lot of young men-". However, Sheila cuts him off, and says that "Gerald knows what I mean, and you apparenty don't"-a perceptive remark because Gerald, while content to adapt himself to the values of Biring, can at least understand that what he has done to Eva- and to Sheila, in deceiving her-is wrong". However, this is not enough to make him fuly repent, and at the end of the play he offers Sheila the engagement ring again, symboicaly inviting her to return with him back into the complacent, selfish word of the upper classes- an invitation Sheila declines.
Gerald is a character who perhaps wants to align himself with the Mr Birling- this is shown through his approval of Mr Birling's decision to sack Eva- "You couldn't have done anything else".
Gerald and Mr Birling and others
Gerald flatters Mr Birling with his pompous opinions (p6) and refraining from arguing him unlike Eric. When Birling explains why he sacked Eva, Gerald shows his approva and refers contemptuously to striking women saying, "They'd all be broke-if I know them". erald challenges Gooe, saying "we're respectable citizens and not criminals".
After Sheila has confessed her part in the affair, she is quick to challenge Gerald as to his knowledge of Eva, refusing to be put off by his feebe attemps at evasion (P25). Caught out, Gerald first tries to gloss over his embarassing secret, "Let's leave it at that", then vainly tries to wheedle his way out-"Now listen darling-", but Sheila forcefully dismisses his furtive wish to "keep it from him".
Gerald is quicker to grasp the predicament he is in, and after a first haf-hearted attempt to persuade Sheila to leave the room so as to be "protected" from hearing of his sordid affair, he seems to accept the situation. His quietly self-assured manner changes in Act 2 to one of afatalistic appearance. His tone is gloomy yet resigned, and his previously poliyte mode of speech slips, when he say "Old Joe Meggarty, half-drunk and gogge eyed....obscene fat carcass". He seems momentariy shocked when he realises what he has done- "I've suddenly realised-that she's dead-" and after he has confessed, he seems genuinely upset, speaking "In low, trouled tone" (P39). He tries to exculpate himself to the Inspector, saying that he let her live in his friend's flat "because I felt sorry for her" and that "I didn't ask for anything in return". Gerald is undoubtedly speaking more honestly and openly than he has ever done-thoug only because he now realises he has no alternative.
Gerald is honest enough to admit that he was flattered by his role as "the wonderful Fairy Prince" (P38) and Sheia commends him-"That's probably the best thing you've said all night. At least it's honest". At the conclusion of his forced confession, Sheila seclares "in some odd way, I rather respect you more than I've done before". Sheila can respect honestyin others, having fully repented of her own part in Eva's fall, and Gerald is too subdued to remain with them, requesting leave to "be alone for a while"- again suggesting that he is genuinely sorry for what he has done.
When the problems start coming in...
However, this remorse does not last long, and while he is out, Gerald's keen mind starts to think of a way out of his difficulties. After Gerald has revealed that Goole's claim to be an Inspector does not stand up to inquiry, and that he probably showed them all different photographs, Mrs Birling says that he has "argued this very cleverly".
It is Gerald's instinct for self-preservation which has prompted him to question Goole's identity, and he is very pleased to have done his prospective inlaws such a service. By the end he is clearly aligned with Mr and Mrs Birling - a young man, but with the ideas and corrupt ways of the older generation (of upper class society). If Eric is a younger Alderman Meggarty, at the end, Gerald is almost a younger Mr Birling, though without the latter's pomposity.
Goole has some mitigating words to say in Gerald's favour during his final relentless reminder of their collective guilt-"he at least had some affection for her and made her happy for a time". In the final analysis, though, Gerald's repentance is temporary, and his old cynical, self-serving instinct reasserts itself. His guilt is thus considerable as that of the Birlings.
- "You couldn't have done anything else" he sides with Mr Birling about sacking the workers.
- "And we can't help you there because we don't know" dramatic irony, they do know.
- "There's nothing to settle as far as I'm concerned" does not see his link to the case.
- "We're respectable citizens and not criminals" he thinks they have no part in her death.
- "I don't come into this suicide business [...] neither of us does" he doesn't think Shiela can be blamed.
- "She's had a long and exciting day" patronising Shiela.
- "It's bound to be unpleasant and disturbing" he does not think Shiela should hear his 'interview' because it is upsetting. Traditional view of 'sensitive' women.
- "You've been through it- and now you want to see someone else put through it" bitter an unkind toward Shiela.
- "I've suddenly realised [...] that she's dead" one of the only characters who seems to be upset by her death.
- "Got him out of the way" he rescued her for Alderman Meggarty, this shows kindness.
- "She also told me she'd had a job in one of the works [...] and had had to leave after a strike" this line suggests that she is indeed the same girls.
- "I don't think so" this line is in response to Mrs Birling suggesting that they are nearly finished. He seems to have taken the same view a Shiela here, that the Inspector is all-knowing.
- That man wasn't a police officer" key line, changes the perspective and view of the older Birlings.
- "We've been had" doesn't think there was any truth in what the Inspector said at all.
- "But how do you know it's the same girl?" another key line, Gerald is obviously keen to prove the Inspector wrong.
- "Everything's all right now Shiela" he seems to have forgotten the Inspector's 'lesson' on responsibility.