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Mr Birling

A confident factory owner who thinks there is no reason to challenge his decisions and feels he is rightfully a powerful man in Brumley.He is optimistic for the future and confident that there will not be a war. As the audience knows there will be a war, we begin to doubt Mr Birling's judgement.At the end of the play, he knows he has lost the chance of his knighthood, his reputation in Brumley and the chance of Birling and Co. merging with their rivals. Yet he hasn't learnt the lesson of the play: he is unable to admit his responsibility for his part in Eva's death.He is aware of people who are his social superiors, which is why he shows off about the port to Gerald, "it's exactly the same port your father gets."He is proud that he is likely to be knighted, as that would move him even higher in social circles.He is extremely selfish:He wants to protect himself and his family. He believes that socialist ideas that stress the importance of the community are "nonsense" and that "a man has to make his own way.


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The Inspector

A powerful man who makes the other characters listen to him through the force of his personality and his clear moral judgement.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."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 is not impressed when he hears about Mr Birling's influential friends and he cuts through Mrs Birling's obstructiveness.

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Mrs Birling

Mr Birling's wife has little sympathy for Eva Smith and is only really concerned with her own and her family’s reputation.She is described at the start as "about fifty, a rather cold woman and her husband's social superior."She is a snob, very aware of the differences between social classes. She is irritated when Mr Birling makes the social gaffe of praising the cook in front of Gerald and later is very dismissive of Eva, saying "Girls of that class."She has the least respect for the Inspector of all the characters. She tries - unsuccessfully - to intimidate him and force him to leave, then lies to him when she claims that she does not recognise the photograph that he shows her.She sees Sheila and Eric still as "children"and speaks patronisingly to them.She tries to deny things that she doesn't want to believe: Eric's drinking, Gerald's affair with Eva, and the fact that aworking class girl would refuse money even if it was stolen, claiming "She was giving herself ridiculous airs."

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Sheila Birling

At the beginning of the play, seems a selfish character, but by the end understands how her actions affect others.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 when she mentions "last summer, when you never came near me." Although she has probably never in her life before considered the conditions of the workers, she shows her compassionimmediately she hears of her father's treatment of Eva Smith: "But these girls aren't cheap labour - they're people."Already, she is starting to change.She is horrified by her own part in Eva's story. She feels full of guilt for her jealous actions and blames herself as "really responsible." She is very perceptive: she realises that Gerald knew Daisy Renton from his reaction.Significantly, she is the first to wonder who the Inspector really is, saying to him, 'wonderingly', "I don't understand about you." She warns the others "he's giving us the rope - so that we'll hang ourselves" (Act II) and, near the end, is the first to consider whether the Inspector may not be real.

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Eric Birling

A weak man, who relies on drink to help him through life, but he realises how badly he has treated Eva by the end.He is described at the start as "in his early twenties, not quite at ease, half shy, half assertive."Eric seems embarrassed and awkwardright from the start. The first mention of him in the script is "Eric suddenly guffaws," and then he is unable to explain his laughter, as if he is nervous about something. (It is not until the final act that we realise this must be because of his having stolen some money.) There is another awkward moment when Gerald, Birling and Eric are chatting about women's love of clothes before the Inspector arrives. Do you feel that there is tension in Eric's relationship with his father?It soon becomes clear to us (although it takes his parents longer) that he is ahardened drinker. Gerald admits, "I have gathered that he does drink pretty hard."When he hears how his father sacked Eva Smith, he supports the worker's cause, like Sheila. "Why shouldn't they try for higher wages?"

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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.He is not as willing as Sheila to admit his part in the girl's death to the Inspector and initially pretends that he never knew her. Is he a bit like Mr Birling, wanting to protect his own interests?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."Despite this, in Act 3 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. It is Gerald who confirms that the local force has no officer by the name of Goole, he who realises it may not have been the same girl and he who finds out from the infirmary that there has not been a suicide case in months.

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