Mr Birling is a sucessful businessman. He is self confident but very socially aware. His daughter Shiela is marrying Gerald.
Throughout the play, he refuses to accept any responsibility for his actions towards Eva Smith/ Daisy Rentons death.
- Mr Birling uses his social status to try and imtimidate the inspector.
- He tries to impose his will and authority on Eric and Shiela, hiding them from accepting responsibility
- He is very conserned about his reputation and what the death can do to him. This is why he refuses to accept any responsibility.
- He is a childlike character who is selfish and cares little about the death of Eva Smith
- He does not change his view or attitude throughout the course of the play and at the end cant understand Shiela and Erics attitude that something must still be learnt
- He is selfish "A man has to make his own way"
- He see's his daughters marriage like a business deal
- The play is set in 1912. Mr Birling says "silly little war scares" suggesting there will be no war. Being at the beginning of the play forshadows his stupidity and foolishness.
- He saw Eva Smith as "cheap labor"
- He likes to be respected and wants to be in control. His family is falling appart; Eric stole from him, Shiela is almost leaving Gerald and Mr Birling blames the Inspector for ruining the evening and making a "nasty mess"
Underneath it all Mr Birling is an anxious man; she tries to win the Krofts approval by getting Geralds father his favority port. He also tried to make himself seem of high power and suggests he plays "golf" with other inspectors
He uses authorative language to try and stay in control. He doesnt like being interupted "just let me finnish Eric" and he repeatedly shouts "rubbish" to dismiss what people have said.
The Inspector is supposedly a man who looks and examines things closely; he certainly does.
At the beginning of the play he is said to give an impression of "massiveness, solidity and purposfullness" He remains solid and his character the same throughout, whilst everyone else is seen to change slightly (or not as the case may be) under the stress they have been put under.
Throughout the play his job is to demonstrate that people have to take responsibility for their actions. He is the one who opens the secrets of the family and creates an affect, revealing all they have done. From the moment of his arrival, he is different to the other character, breaking the happy vibe of the evening.
Priestly uses him as a catalyst, making them aware and fess up to what each of them had done; making themselves decide whether or not to change.
He reflects Priestlies ideas about responsibility.
The inspector reprisents priestlys strong moral view.
He leaves with a speech abut responsibility, when the characters find out that he wasnt real, they appear to "forget" this speech and think it doesnt matter, it is Eric and Shiela and also kind of Gerald who point out what they did was still wrong.
He makes the audience sympathertic to Eva Smith, after describing her as a "pretty" "lively" girl. He creates contrast with the harst way he describes her death; lying there with "a burnt-out inside on a slab"
He is very forward and blunt.
Priestly uses the Inspector as a mouth piece; delivering Priestlies message about class and wealth not being of importance, we all have to look after eachother and take responsibility for our actions; with power comes responsibility to do whats right.
Sibil Birling/ Mrs Birling
Mrs Birling is described as a "rather cold woman and her husbands social superior" She is unsympathetic but still aware of her social surroundings. Her lack of understanding about how others live is shown through her snobbiness "a girl of that sort" She didnt even notice her sons habit with heavy drinking.
She is also a woman of social status and ettiquet. To preserve her own status she is prepaired to be cruel.
It is only after she realises that it is the death of her own Granchild that she shows any sign of weakening. This shows just how cold and unsympathetic she is.
She is hapy to blame the father of the child for the problems caused, until she realises it is her own son. She is also happy to condem Gerals act as a "disgusting affair" untill she realises she may share some blame in the death too.
She supports charity but is not very charilatable.
She claims she did the right thing and says "i accept no blame for it all" denying her responsibiilty as Mr Birling did.
At first Shiela appears childish, the stage directions say she is "pleased with her life" and "rather exited". She starts by calling Mrs Birling "mummy" a very childlike thing... however as the play pogresses, she says "mother" to show she has grown up and is more formal. As she grows, she accepts responsibility and appears to break away from her parents. She is not naive and knew that Geralds disappearence was suspicous.
She is different from the rest of her family, she is strong minded and has a strong sense of morals. The year before at Milwards Shiela appeared selfish and childish. Using her pwer in the wrong way to get Eva Smith fired becuase of a petty fuse. However she learns from her mistake and by the end of the play she appears to have changed for good. She is the only one to admit that "probabily between us, we killed her" She is prepaired to stand up and criticise her father for his behavior and chalanges his idea of the girl being a poor girl not "cheap labor"
She is genuinely sorry when she hears about the girl and her role in the shop but a streak of selfishness is still there
"Of corse he knows, and i hate to think how much he know that we dont yet"
Eric turned away from his family and to drinking, noone noticed it or every mentioned it prior to this night. He is isolated from the family and feels he cannot rely on them for help. He claims that "noone understands him" and he feels he cant talk to any of them.
Eric develops through the play, at the end admitting that he will "never forget" what he has learnt. He deeply regrets his mistake and his part to play in the death of Eva Smith/Daisy Renton.
Priestly leaves hints that Eric is not happy and normal, "half agressive, half shy" "not quite at ease" these show he has somehting to hide from the beginning. This is the opposite to Shiela Eric met her at the same bar Gerald met her; both Gerald and Eric went to this bar...This behavior was not unusual, especialy as he has a drinking problem and a problem with his class. However his secret is the one that gets out. He accses his mother for the death of his granchild and her and says his father is not the sort of person you can go to for help.
Eric is an obvious villan in the play however he is also a victim... "you dont understand anything. You never did. You never even tried"- his family arent there for him to support and care form him that why he is the way he is and he is angry at his parents for the way they treated him becuase of this and for not accepting responsibility.
Gerald is respectable character. He is like Mr Birling and sides with him about their reputation and makes it clear that the inspector wasnt real. He shares jokes with Mr Birling and is relaxed in this company. He has lied to Shiela and admits this. However he is like a mini Mr Birling... supporting his decision about firing Eva Smith- "you couldnt have done anything else"He doesnt feel genuinely sorry for his actions; he meant well and doesnt see that it is his fault of Eva Smiths death; he is sad as he genuinely cared for her and thinks its sad, however he doesnt think he was at faultHe says the inspector is a "hoax" and assures Shiela by saying "everythings alright now" as though nothing had happened...He treated her well but not properly becuase of her social class... this is due to social status and he discarded her when it suited him no longerhowever he did "make her happy for some time"It is not clear whether Gerald was good or bad... he feels he did her good and was only trying to help her from the start when he met her; like when he saved her at the bar from the sleazy old guy.The fact he gave her money to restart her life once he had gone and "made her happy for a while" allows the audience to sympathise with him
Eva Smith/ Daisy Renton
She never appears but her life over the last few years is the basis of the play. The audience doensnt even know whether she is real. She was one of Arthor Burlings employees and was sacked for protesting against lowering wages. This dismissal was the first of the chain of events leading to her death. According to the inspector she changed her name to Daisy Renton. We do not know whether she is one person or two different paople. Her real identity is also never revealed. Even if she is two different people, she still reprisents everyone they have treated badly.We know she was attractive; enough to attract both Eric and Gerald and also to make Shiela jealous. she was "young and fresh and charming" she was also very honorable not wanting "to take any money from him" however she was lower class "girls of that class" and "a girl of that class". She lost all support becuase of other people with higher up positions of power abusing this power.This girl never sought revenge for how she was treated and for this families actions, the inspector does it for her. Priestly made her scielent and offstage to reprisent all the scilent misstreated people at this time in the context of the play. She was trapped in her situation with no power. She reprisetnts all working class women.She symbolises all poeple of working class and shows how those of higher class can affect the lives of lower class poeple if responsibility is abused.