Character - Arthur Birling
- "heavy-looking, rather portentious man in his middle fifties but rather provincial in his speech."
- hopes to be knighted "there's a fair chance that I might find my way into the next Honours List".
- full of his own self-importance "I was an alderman for years - and Lord Mayor two years ago."
- sees himself as above the law, thinks he can get away with things "(Chief Constable) we play golf together sometimes"
- doesn't care about the low wages for workers, celebrates ripping off customers and workers "lower costs and higher prices"
- unrealistic about the future - calls Titanic "unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable", doesn't think there will be a war "There'll be peace and prosperity and rapid progress everywhere" - dramatic irony
- Capitalist ideas - believes "a man has to make his own way"
- does not admit his responsibility for playing a part in Eva's death
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Character - Sybil Birling
- "about fifty, a rather cold woman and her husbands social superior"
- a snob and looks down at people of a lower class, very dismissive of them "Girls of that class"
- sees Sheila and Eric as children and speaks to them patronisingly
- refuses to help Eva for just having the cheek to use the same name as her, calls it "a piece of gross impertinence"
- a hypocrite, judges lower classes more harshly than her own - "some drunken yound idler, then that's all the more reason why he shouldn't escape.....he ought to be delt with very severely", "No - Eric - please - I didn't know - I didn't understand ---"
- refuses to believe she did anything wrong - "I have done nothing I am ashamed of", "I think she only had herself to blame"
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Character - Sheila Birling
- "a pretty girl in her early twenties, very pleased with life and rather excited"
- shows compassion towards Eva - "But these girls aren't cheap labour - they're people"
- gets Eva fired because she was jealous of her
- feels very guilty for her part in Eva's death "I'm really responsible?"
- matures throughout the play - starts off saying "mummy" but moves on to respect Gerald for his honesty
- angry at her parents - for trying to "pretend nothing much has happened", "it frightens me the way you talk"
- becomes more aware of her social responsabilities, changes from more Capitalist views to more Socialist ones, on the side of the Inspector
- sees her parents and Gerald in a new light after the Inspector has gone, not ready to take Gerald back at the end of the play "No. Not yet. It's too soon. I must think."
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Character - Eric Birling
- "in his early twenties, not quite at ease, half shy, half assertive"
- he is an alcoholic - Sheila says he is "squiffy", Gerald says that "I have gathered that he does drink pretty hard"
- challenges his father - "What about war?"
- like Sheila he supports the workers cause "Why shouldn't they try for higher wages?"
- he is horrified at his actions and the consequenses they had "Oh - my God! - how stupid it all is!"
- more concerned about giving the girl money then stealing from his father - shows he is more socially aware
- appalled by his parents inability to accept responsibility "I'm ashamed of you"
- stands up to his father in the end "I don't give a damn now"
- one of the few character sto change - like Sheila he becomes more socially aware and is not interested in his parents attempts to try and cover it all up
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Character - Gerald Croft
- "an attractive chap about thirty, rather too manly to be a dandy but very much the easy well-bred man-about-town"
- real member of the upper class - son of Sir George Croft and Lady Croft
- has an affair with Daisy Renton/Eva Smith
- more interested in protecting himself then changing - at the end comes up with the ideas that there is no officer called Goole, they may not have been talking about the same girl and finds out that there have been no suicides because "that makes all the difference"
- doesn't change at the end of the play, thinks everything is all ok, back to how it was before and tries to get the engagement back on
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Character - Inspector Goole
- "an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefilness. He is a man in his fifties, dressed in a plain darkish suit. He speaks carefully, weightily, and has a disconcerting habit of looking hard at the person he addresses before actually speaking"
- works very systematically "one person and one line of enquiry at a time"
- he seems to know alot - about Eva's life, the Birlings' involvement even though she only died hours ago, seems to know what is going to happen before it does - "Why - you fool - he knows! Of course he knows. And I hate to think how much he knows that we don't know yet"
- very socialist views - "Public men, Mr Birling, have responsibilities as well as privileges", "We are responsible for each other"
- left questioning whether or not the Inspector is a real person - Goole reminds you of 'ghoul' or 'ghost'
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Character - Eva Smith
- Inspector, Sheila, Gerald and Eric all say that she was "pretty" and Gerald describes her as "very pretty - soft brwon hair and big dark eyes"
- she also uses the name Daisy Renton
- her parents were dead, she was working class, Mr Birling said she was "country-bred"
- Inspector said that she kept a diary which helped him to piece together everything that had happened
- however nearing the end of the play we start to question who Eva Smith really is, did all these things happen to the same girl - "We've no proof it was the same photograph and therefore no proof it was the same girl", "There wasn't the slightest proof that this Daisy Renton reall was Eva Smith"
- Eva Smith could just represent every girl of her class - Eva is very similar to Eve, the first woman created by God and Smith is the most common English surname
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Themes - Responsibility
- central theme of the play
- the words respnsible and responsibility are used alot in the play
- each character has a different attitude towards their responsibility in Eva's case
- Inspector wanted everyone to share the responsibility "each of you helped kill her"
- Inspector believes in collective responsibility, everyone is socially linked - socialist ideas - "One Eva Smith has gone - but there are millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, and what we think and say and do."
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Themes - Class
- Birlings - upper middle class, Gerald - upper class, Eva and Edna - lower class
- Arthur Birling - keen to be knighted to cement his rise to the upper class, saw the lower class as cheap labour
- Sybil Birling - socially superior to her husband and sometimes embarrassed by him, looked down upon the lower class and thought she was better than them
- Sheila Birling - happy to spend lots of time spending money in expensive shops, originally though it was ok to get someone fired but then realises that they are all the same no matter what class they belong to
- Eric Birling - awkward about is public school life, originally took advantage of lower class girls but also realises we are all not that different
- Gerald Croft - willing to marry Sheila despit eher lower social position, again took advantage of lower class and left her when it no longer suited him
- Inspector Goole - no real class
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Themes - Gender
- Eva was in an even worse position than lower class men because she was a woman
- even upper class women had few choices - impress a rich man, marry well, have a family which is what Sheila was doing
- a job was crucial for working class women because otherwise they would have no money, very few jobs were open to women which is why many turned to prostitution
- women were paid less "We were paying the usual rates and if they didn't like those rates, they could go work some place else"
- women were very vulnerable - Eva was used by both Eric and Gerald
- they were not thought very highly of "Girls of that class", thought to have no morals "a girl of that sort would never refuse money"
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Themes - Age
- older generation and younger generation responded to the situation differently - Sheila and Eric accepted their responsibility and felt guilty about it, their parents wouldn't admit that they did anything wrong
- the older generation were set in their ways. sure that they were right whereas the young were open to new ideas
- the older generation would do anything to protect themselves, lie and cover it up but the younger generation were honest and admitted what they did wrong
- the older generation didn't learn or change from the Inspectors visit but Sheila and Eric leearned about their social responsibility and became more aware of their roles in society
- Gerald is stuck in the middle, he is not as young as Eric and Sheila but not as old as Arthur and Sybil, at first he feels upset that Eva has died but in the end he sides with the older generation as he is more interested in protecting himself
- could show how society is changing
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