An Inspector Calls - character cards

Main points and key words of the characters in the play, An Inspector Calls.

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  • Created by: Hannah
  • Created on: 22-05-12 16:40

Mr Arthur Birling

  • Head of the family - used to people listening and obeying him. Not used to people such as the Inspector challenging him or his authority.
  • Rich, businessman who has acquired wealth through success as a "hard headed practical man of business" yet not born into upper class - aware of his social superiors - therefore always looking for ways to climb the social ladder. e.g Sheila's engagement, which "means a tremendous lot" to him
  • Selfish - "a man has to mind his own business and look after his own" These views are challenged by the Inspector.
  • Dismisses socialism - "community and all that nonsense"
  • Represents the older generation.
  • Shallow, narcissistic, proud, self - important - tries to impress and intimidate the Inspector by mentioning his influential friends. e.g. "Chief Constable, Colonel Roberts?"
  • Unable to admit responsibility/role in Eva Smith's death: "I can't accept any responsibility".
  • Uncaring towards Eva Smith - threatened by her: "she had a lot to say - far too much".
  • Arrogantly foolish - according to him the titanic is "unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable" nor does he believe there will be a war. The audience has hindsight therefore his words are dramatically ironic.
  • Described as "portentous" at start of play.
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Mrs Sybil Birling

  • Described as "a rather cold woman" - does not show warmth.
  • Is her husband's social superior.
  • A snob - sees herself above others When talking of Eva Smith she dismisses her as "girls of that class". Sees the lower class as morally inferior.
  • Has the least respect for the Inspector- "I've done nothing wrong - and you know it".
  • Denies things as if her  refusal to accept things will mean they've never happened and prefers to pass responsibility on to others.
  • A bad mother - doesn't notice/ refuses to accept Eric's alcoholism.
  • Haughty - Reprimands her husband for making social blunders e.g. praising the cook due to that sort of behaviour being socially improper.
  • Patronising - Treats Eric and .Sheila as if they are still children - "they're overtired".
  • Use of irony - Involved in the death of her own grandchild but tries to protect herself while unwittingly condemning her own son. The Inspector uses her pride against her.
  • At first builds wall of courtesy and pretennce to prevent the truth from coming out.
  • Defensive - refuses to believe she was anything other than just when she denied to help the ******* the grounds of being impertinent.
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Sheila Birling

  • Represents the younger generation who are more "impressionable".
  • Starts as a young, pretty naive girl who is overall pleased with life.
  • At first she is defensive of her family, showing her loyalty.
  • More comp***ionate than her father - sees Eva Smith as a person: "But these girls are'nt cheap labour, they're people".
  • Sensitive - "How horrible!" - Reacts emotionally.
  • Acted spoilt and abused her power when casing the unemployment of Eva Smith, yet shows guilt and admits responsibility. Starts to show more trust in the Inspector and shows deep remorse and sorrow.
  • Playful but suspicious when mentioning Gerald's absence last summer.
  • Is hurt when she discovers the truth about Gerald's absence (he was having an affair with Daisy Renton/Eva Smith) but respects his honesty.
  • Becomes more mature throughout the play.
  • Her and Eric represent the hope that the younger generation will improve society and stand together - a development from the start of the play where there is a sense of sibling rivalry:"Don't be an ***, Eric"
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Eric Birling

  • Awkward - described as "not quite at ease" when first introduced. There is also tension between him and his father from nthe beginning.
  • Alcoholic - he drinks "pretty hard" and is "squiffy" the night of the arrival of the Inspector.
  • Irresponsible and aggressive - "I was in that state when a chap easily becomes nasty" Gets Eva Smith pregnant.
  • However, he does attempt to provide money for her and be responsible, but goes about it by stealing money from his father's office - also shows the poor relationship he has with his father because he couldn't ask him for help.
  • By the end of the play he is fully aware of his social responsibility and accepts that his actions contributed to causing the girl's death.
  • Nervous - "suddenly guffaws" for no reason. There are signs that he is hiding something from the beginning.
  • Defiant towards his parents - tells them he's ashamed of them. He  is resentful.
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Gerald Croft

  • Self-assured
  • At first, quite likeable - seems polite and tactful - listens dutifully to Birling.
  • Mr and Mrs Birling treat him as an equal yet persist to treat Sheila patronisingly.
  • Is possibly the equivalent of a younger Mr Birling - agrees with Mr Birling that he should have sacked Eva Smith.
  • Although he is also one of the younger generation he is already old in his attitude, he doesn't learn from his ways and is keen to prove that the Inspector is fake.
  • Lets the audience down by not changing his attitudes. He is more concerned about protecting himself than changing.
  • Kind to "Daisy" yet dishonest to Sheila.
  • Reacts at once to the name Daisy Renton yet tries to hide it - Sheila sees this.
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Inspector Goole

  • Has a powerful/ dominant presence - "an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness"- makes a strong impression on the family.
  • Authoritative - Takes control and remains in control despite characters such as Arthur Birling attempting to question his authority. Approaches them firmly but calmly.
  • Wise/ Knowledgeable, Assertive - he teaches each character their social responsibilities.
  • Blunt - Extremely honest. Language is often shocking e.g. "She died in misery and agony"- shock tactics.
  • He directs the investigation carefully and systematically - "one line of enquiry at a time"
  •  Stands up for the working class (Eva Smith represents them) and is Priestley's voice.
  • Isn't intimidated by Birling's threats - doesn't take social status into consideration.
  • Has strong moral values.
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Eva Smith/ Daisy Renton

  • All characters, with the exception of the Inspector, are responsible for her death.
  • A victim due to her class - all of the characters abused their power over her in some form.
  • Attractive/ Pretty - "young and fresh and charming" which encourages the audience to sympathise with her.
  • Strong morals unlike the majority of the Birling family - refused to accept stolen money or marry Eric as she knew he didn't love her.
  • We never meet her but the focus isn't meant to be on the character herself but on how each character has behaved towards her.
  • Her character helps the audience realise the dangers of living selfishly.
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Thanks :)

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