Mr. Arthur Birling
Mr. Birling is a father of two children, Sheila and Eric. He is married to Mrs. Sybil Birling. Although he is not as high in class as Mrs. Birling.
Mr. Birling has his own company, and likes to think of himself as a "hard-headed business man", this idea is repeated by him many times, thinking more about money and less about people, this is because he wants to lower wages for his staff.
Mr. Birling is a person who loves to be in control and shows off. But when the Inspector arrives, this suddenly changes because the Inspector is now in control.
Mr. Birling then tries to gain the control back by mentioning "Lord Mayor two years ago - and I'm still on the bench". This is an attempt to put Inspector Goole in his place in the Birling household.
When it is revealed that Mr. Birling might have contributed to the death of Eva Smith, he won't accept responsibility. He sees his workers as "cheap labour". This shows the reader the idea that Mr. Birling is selfish and self-centred as he would rather forget and joke about the experience because the inspector wasn't real than face up to what he has done.
Mrs. Sybil Birling
Mrs. Birling is in a high class, but she is sheltered from the truth by Mr. Birling. Mrs. Birling is also self-centred, judgemental and a snob.
Mrs. Birling is very judgemental of those from a lower class, as she believes that they have lower standards. This is shown when Eva/Daisy comes to the charity, called Brumley Womans Charity Organisation, she helps out with to ask for money because Eva/Daisy is pregnant. Mrs. Birling manipulates the other members of the charity to refuse and blames it on the father of the unborn baby, without knowing it was her own son.
It is made clear that Mrs. Birling doesn't change at all in the play. This is shown in the stage directions "very sharply" and "bitterly". She also will not accept any responsbility for her actions towards Eva/Daisy. The only thing Mrs. Birling wanted to do is ask the Inspector questions because she also wants to be in control.
However she is in control of her children and still treats them as children but they are quite grown up. This is shown in the line "Mother says we musn't stay up long".
Sheila is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Birling. At first she plays up to being treated like a child by using words such as "squiffy" and "mummy". But something inside changes during the play and she matures a lot.
Sheila actually benefits from the whole experience, this is shown when she gives the engagement ring back to Gerald when she finds out what happened during the summer that she didn't see Gerald. This shows that she is strong-minded and quite witty, although you wouldn't think it from the way she acts at the beginning of the play. Sheila also highlights the fact that neither of her parents change by saying "So there's nothing to be sorry for, nothing to learn.
Appears to be genuinely remorseful and has learnt a lesson, this is shown "between us we killed her". This continues even after she learns that it wasn't a real Inspector, "whoever that Inspector was, it was far from a joke". To some, Sheila is seen as a character that summarises the action that is taking place as she first puts the idea in that they are all to blame. However she is in control of her children and still treats them as children but they are quite grown up. This is shown in the line "Mother says we musn't stay up long".
Engaged to Sheila. Gerald is from the Croft family, they also have a family business. Mr. Birlings rival company.
Gerald is an aristocrat, this is because his parents are Lord and Lady Croft. This shows that they are in the upper class, one class higher than the Birling family. It doesn't please Lord and Lady Croft that Gerald is engaged to Sheila because they decline the invitation to dinner at the Birling family house.
Gerald is similar to Sheila and Eric's ages, but acts more like Mr. Birling. This is made clear because Gerald doesn't learn from the experience. He even believes that his engagement is back on "Everything's all right now Sheila". They both are very keen about business, and is just as committed as Mr. Birling. Gerald also agrees with Mr. Birlings actions to sack Eva/Daisy "You couldn't have done anything else".
To some readers Inspector Goole could be the voice of social conscience and social responsibility, both are very big themes in this play. Inspector Goole makes a big impression on his entrance as he arrives unexpectedly and asks a lot of questions, this is shown in Preistley's stage directions of "an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness". He even changes the way Sheila and Eric act, but Sheila particularly.
Goole is a figure of authority, not because he is a 'Police Inspector' but in the way he talks, acts and treats other people. He deals with each family member firmly and we see him take charge of the family when an argument occurs.
He seems to be a very knowledgeable man that knows most things about the Birling family and Eva/Daisy, even though she died only hours ago. This is shown when Sheila warns Gerald "Of course he knows".
His final speech is one that the Birlings should listen to, but only Shiela understands him when he says "we are responsible for each other". This shows social responsibility. Sheila the only one that picks up on the warning of "fire and blood and anguish" if they don't pay attention to what he has taught them.