An Inspector Calls Character and Themes

quotes for characters and themes in an inspector calls

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Mr Birling...

Mr Birlings description in the stage directions.

"heavy-looking, rather portentous man in his middle fifties but rather provincial in his speech."

Proud of his achievements and tries to show this off

"I was an alderman for years and lord major two years ago and im still on the bench"

He shows off to the higher class (gerald)

"it's exactly the same port your father gets."

he wants the marriage between shelia and gerald is so the businesses can unite.

"Your father and I have been friendly rivals in business for some time now--though crofts limited are both older and bigger than Birling and company-- and now you've brought us together"

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Mrs Birling...

Her description at the start is

"about fifty, a rather cold woman and her husband's social superior."

She only cares about those in her class of above

"Girls of that sort"

She is disrespectfull to the inspector

"I meant what I said" and "I beg your pardon"

Denies things she doesnt want to believe

"Eric I cant believe it. there must be some mistake."

Refuses to accept responsibility

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Shelia Birling...

She is described at the start as

"a pretty girl in her early twenties, very pleased with life and rather excited."

Even though she seems very playful at the opening, we know that she has had suspicions about Gerald

"last summer, when you never came near me."

Takes the moral high ground

"But these girls aren't cheap labour - they're people."

she feels truly guilty and responsible for eva's death

"its all my fault isnt it"

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Shelia Birling...

Shelia is very perceptive she imediately knows Gerald knew Eva, she recognises the pattern.

"why--you fool--he knows. of course he knows. and I hate to think how much he knows we dont know yet."

"you see, I feel your beginning all wrong. And im afraid you'll say something or do something you'll be sorry for afterwards"

Angry with her parents for not realising they were wrong

"you cant pretend nothing has happened"

"it frightens me the way you talk"

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Eric Birling...

He is described at the start as

"in his early twenties, not quite at ease, half shy, half assertive."

Eric seems embarrased and awkward

"Eric guffaws"

Heavy Drinker

"I have gathered that he does drink pretty hard." (Gerald)

He supports what shelia says

"Why shouldn't they try for higher wages?"

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Eric Birling...

He has some sense of responsibility because he wanted to give the girl he got pregnant money

At the end of the play Eric is so outraged with his parents lack of responsibility he stands up to them saying

"I am ashamed of you" and "I dont give a damn now"

At the end of the play he is fully aware of his own responsibility

"we all did her in all right"

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Gerald Croft...

He is described as

"an attractive chap about thirty, rather too manly to be a dandy but very much the easy well-bred man-about-town."

He is an aristocrat - the son of Lord and Lady Croft. We realise that they are not over-impressed by Gerald's engagement to Sheila because they declined the invitation to the dinner.

"your mother -Lady Croft- while she doesnt object to my girl- feels you may have done better for yourself socially"

He is not as willing to admit his part in the girl's death to the Inspector and initially pretends that he never knew her.

"where did you get the idea i knew her?"

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Gerald Croft...

He did have some genuine feeling for Daisy Renton, however: he is very moved when he hears of her death. He tells Inspector Goole that he arranged for her to live in his friend's flat

"because I was sorry for her;"

she became his mistress because

"She was young and pretty and warm-hearted - and intensely grateful."

he tries to come up with as much evidence as possible to prove that the Inspector is a fake - because that would get him off the hook.

"yes. I met a police sergeant I know down the road. I asked him about this Inspector Goole and described the chap carefully to him. He swore there wasnt an Inspector Goole or anybody like him on the force here."

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The Inspector...

He is described on his entrance as creating

"an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness. 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. "

He works very systematically; he likes to deal with

"one person and one line of enquiry at a time."

His method is to confront a suspect with a piece of information and then make them talk - or, as Sheila puts it,

"he's giving us the rope - so that we'll hang ourselves."

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The Inspector...

He is a figure of authority. He deals with each member of the family very firmly and several times we see him

"massively taking charge as disputes erupt between them."

He seems to know and understand an extraordinary amount:

He knows the history of Eva Smith and the Birlings' involvement in it, even though she died only hours ago. Sheila tells Gerald,

"Of course he knows."

He knows things are going to happen - He says just before Eric's return, as if he expected Eric to reappear at exactly that moment

"I'm waiting... To do my duty"

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The Inspector

He is obviously in a great hurry towards the end of the play: he stresses, does he know that the real inspector is shortly going to arrive?

"I haven't much time."

His final speech is like a sermon or a politician's. He leaves the family with the message

"We are responsible for each other" and warns them of the "fire and blood and anguish" that will result if they do not pay attention to what he has taught them.

All this mystery suggests that the Inspector is not a 'real' person. So, what is he?

  • Is he a ghost? Goole reminds us of 'ghoul'.
  • Is he the voice of Priestley?
  • Is he the voice of God?
  • Is he the voice of all our consciences?
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"One Eva Smith has gone - but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with 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."

if we ignore our responsibility

"And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, when they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish."

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CharactersAttitudes to the lower class:Attitudes to the upper class: At the start of the play, this character was... To this character, Eva was... Mr Birling keen to be knighted to cement his hard-fought rise to the upper class cheap labour Sheila happy spending a lot of time in expensive shops someone who could be fired out of spite Gerald prepared to marry Sheila, despite her lower social position a mistress who could be discarded at will Eric awkward about his 'public-school-and-Varsity' life easy sex at the end of a drunken night out Mrs Birling socially superior to her husband, and embarrassed at his gaffes a presumptuous upstart

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The Old (Mr and Mrs Birling)The Young (Sheila and Eric) The old are set in their ways. They are utterly confident that they are right and they see the young as foolish. The young are open to new ideas. This is first seen early in Act 1 when both Eric and Sheila express sympathy for the strikers - an idea which horrifies Birling, who can only think of production costs and ignores the human side of the issue. The old will do anything to protect themselves: Mrs Birling lies to the Inspector when he first shows her the photograph; Mr Birling wants to cover up a potential scandal. The young are honest and admit their faults. Eric refuses to try to cover his part up, saying, "the fact remains that I did what I did." They have never been forced to examine their consciences before and find they cannot do it now - as the saying goes, 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks.' Sheila and Eric see the human side of Eva's story and are very troubled by their part in it. They do examine their consciences. Mr and Mrs Birling have much to fear from the visit of the 'real' inspector because they know they will lose everything. Sheila and Eric have nothing to fear from the visit of the 'real' inspector because they have already admitted what they have done wrong, and will change.

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self-confessed worrier :/


each character is a bit brief for essays and stuff but great notes for before an exam!

Fraser Rae


put full stops in as in some places it goes to fast

i.e. end of page 


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