Inspector Calls

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  • Created on: 06-02-18 18:00

Act 1

  • the play begins in 1912 with a dinner at the Birling residence. arthur leads a toast to the impending marriage of his daughter, Sheila, and his son in law to be, Gerald Croft. 
  • the family members joke happily among themselves and Sheila teases Gerald about his distant behaviour previous summer, when Gerald explains, he was especially occupied at "THE WORKS," the manufacturing company his father owns. 
  • That company, Crofts limited, is a direct competitor to Birling and company, Arthur's manufacturing business.
  • Arthur believes that Gerald and Sheila's marriage will help them bring the 2 companies closer- when he says to Gerald "NOW THAT YOU'VE BROUGHT US TOGETHER"
  • Arthur stresses that their competition, to this point, has been civil and that the Crofts' is the larger and older company, more distinguished family.
  • Sheila and Gerald tell one another, in front of the family at the dinner table, how lucky they are to be engaged.
  • Gerald presents Sheila a ring, and Sheila vows to keep it in her possession forever.
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Act 1

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Act 1

  • Birling tells the couple, that he believes that the world is in a "GOOD TIME", and that business operations will pick up, not slow down, in the coming years. 
  • Arthur says that reports of German aggression should be discounted.
  • Arthur says that there is a new, "UNSINKABLE" ship being built that will be able to travel from the United Kingdom to New York in 5 days.
  • Arthur continues that capital versus labour disputes, atopic of public discussion at the time, will not go on much longer, except perhaps in Russia, which Arthur calls "ALWAYS... BEHIND-HAND".
  • After dinner, the rest of the family leave and Arthur and Gerald speak privately while drinking port.
  • Arthur tells Gerald that, based on his public service as Lord Mayor in the town of Brumley, he believes the English government might soon offer him a knighthood.
  • Arthur is especially excited about this prospect, he tells Gerald because he knows that Lady Croft, Gerald's mother, thinks Gerald might be "MARRYING DOWN" socially in choosing Sheila for his bride. - This is because the Birling family, though wealth, does not have a title as the Croft family does.
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Act 1

  • Arthur tells Gerald that the knighthood should come barring any unforeseen problems, like a "CRIME" in the family, or a "PUBLIC SCANDAL".
  • But, Arthur notes, he is only kidding about this, as he considers the possibility of either extremely unlikely.
  • Gerald appears to be relieved to hear that Arthur is up for a knighthood and offers to tell his mother when the conferral is more certain.
  • Eric returns to the room where Arthur and Gerald are sitting.
  • Arthur tells Eric and Gerald that it is important for a man to look out "FOR HIMSELF" and "FOR HIS FAMILY".
  • He says that in 1912, there are some "CRANKS" and critics who argue that "EVERYBODY HAS TO LOOK AFTER EVERYBODY ELSE".
  • Arthur is suspicious of this kind of socialism, and he urges Eric and Gerald to "MIND THEIR OWN BUSINESS", which, he says, will guarantee success in commerce and in life.
  • Gerald says nothing, and Eric tells his father that he has offered the family a good deal of advice that night. 
  • Edna comes into the room and tells Arthur that a man wishes to speak with him.- He is an Inspector from the police department
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Act 1

  • the play is set in 1912, in the fictional industrial city of Brumley, North Midlands. 
  • The opening stage directions reveal that the play takes place in the large suburban of a wealthy businessman
  • There is a happy atmosphere- Sheila and Gerald are celebrating their engagement.
  • Inspector enters and introduces himself as Goole.
  • Arthur says he's never heard of Goole before, despite being an Alderman, Lord Mayor, and " A MEMBER OF THE BENCH".
  • The inspector states that the 2 have not met.
  • Arthur offers the Inspector a drink, and he refuses, saying he is "ON DUTY".
  • The inspector tells Arthur that a girl named Eva Smith has committed suicide that evening, after swallowing disinfectant.
  • Eric cries out at this, and Arthur says it is difficult news to hear.
  • The Inspector asks Arthur if he has heard of Eva Smith. Arthur says the name might be familiar, but he isn't sure.
  • The Inspector shows Arthur, and Arthur alone, a photograph, and refuses to show the picture simultaneously to Eric, noting that questioning multiple people would create confusion. 
  • Although Arthur is unsettled, he lets the Inspector proceed. Arthur says that he employed Eva in his factory and discharged her in September 1910.
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Act 1

  • Hearing this, Gerald offers to leave, but when the inspector says he knows that Gerald and Sheila are engaged, he asks Gerald to stay. Gerald, agitated, remains.
  • Arthur tells the Inspector that he dismissed Eva in a "STRAIGHTFORWARD" case. He argues that he "CAN'T ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY" for what has happened to Eva.
  • The Inspector counters that Arthur has initiated a "CHAIN OF EVENTS" leading to Eva's death.
  • Eric interjects that Arthur was saying just before the Inspector arrived that men must look out for themselves and their families, but not all society.
  • Arthur describes why he dismissed Eva: she was the normal wage but joined with other laborers to ask for a raise of 3 shillings a week.
  • Arthur would not grant this, saying it would cut into profits. The Inspector asks Arthur why he refused, and Arthur objects to the idea that the Inspector would question his business practises. Arthur says that the workers, including Eva, went on strike, but it lasted no more than 2 weeks, after which the labourers were taken back on "AT THE OLD WAGE".
  • Eva, however, was not offered her job back, as punishment for initiating the strike.
  • Gerald announces that Arthur did what he had to do, as the owner of a business.
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Act 1

  • Arthur asks the Inspector how he gets along with the Chief Constable, a man with whom Arthur is friendly with. The inspector says he does not "SEE MUCH" of the Chief Constable. 
  • When Eric asks why Arthur couldn't grant the raise, Arthur accuses Eric of being lazy. Eric responds that they do not need to speak this way with the Inspector present. 
  • Sheila enters the room and wonders what's the matter. The Inspector tells Sheila that a girl named Eva Smith, aged 24,  has killed herself, and Sheila is appalled to hear it. Sheila is also shocked to learn that Arthur fired Eva after the strike. 
  • The Inspector begins questioning Sheila, who says she does not know anyone named Eva Smith. The Inspector tells Sheila that Eva Smith went on to work at a clothing store called Milward's. Sheila admits to have shopped there before and asks to see Eva's picture. 
  • The Inspector shows Sheila and only Sheila, and she gasps.
  • Arthur becomes angry that the Inspector has upset Sheila, and Sheila asks the Inspector if he knew "ALL ALONG" that Sheila had interacted with Eva previously, a question the Inspector does not answer. 
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Act 1

  • Sheila admits to having gotten the girl fired from Milward's. Sheila was shopping there in January of 1911 and, after having tried on an unflattering dress, she noticed that the girl, Eva Smith, seemed to find this funny. Sheila became enraged and said she would not return to the store unless the girl, Eva, was fired.
  • Sheila is mortified to hear that her actions might have contributed to Eva's death.
    The Inspector tells the room that Eva worked at Milward's under the name Daisy Renton, rather than Eva Smith, which is why Sheila did not recognise her name.
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Act 1

  • All but Gerald and Sheila leave the room. Sheila notices that Gerald was shocked at the name "DAISY RENTON", and she asks whether Eva/ Daisy was the girl he was seeing in the spring and summer when he claimed to have been occupied at work. Gerald admits to an affair with a girl he thought was named Daisy. He asks Sheila to conceal this from the Inspector, but Sheila tells Gerald that the Inspector must already be aware of this information.
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Act 1- quotes

Sybil- you'll have to get used to that, just as I had

Sheila- you're squiffy

Arthur- it's one of the happiest nights of my life

Arthur- now you've brought us together

Arthur- are you listening, Sheila? (he holds them for a moment before continuing)

Arthur- I speak as a hard-headed businessman

Arthur- Germans don't want war

Arthur- I'm talking as a hard-headed, practical man of business. And I say there isn't a chance of war.

Arthur- unsinkable, absolutely sinkable

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Act 1- quotes

Sybil- (shows signs of interrupting)

Arthur- as long as we behave ourselves

Inspector- I'm on duty

Arthur- I don't see that it's any concern of yours how I choose to run my business"

Inspector- It's my duty to ask questions

Arthur- It's about time you learned to face a few responsibilities

Sheila- but these girls aren't just cheap labour- they're people.

Gerald- (pulling himself together) (startled)

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Act 2

  • The Inspector returns to the room, where Sheila and Gerald are talking. Sheila says she believes the Inspector already knows about Gerald's relationship with Eva. Gerald tells the Inspector he worries that Sheila is becoming "hysterical" and should be excused. Sheila admits she might be hysterical, but asks to remain. 
  • Gerald asks Sheila if the reason she wants to make him suffer the guilt of Daisy's death is that she too had to suffer. Sheila counters that Gerald couldn't really love her if he accuses her of being so spiteful.
  • Sybil enters and asks what the matter is. The Inspector tells her he is asking Sheila and Gerald about Eva's death, and Sybil tells the Inspector that his questions are "impertinent". (rude)
  • Sheila warns her mother that anything she says might become fodder for the Inspector's inquiry. Sybil dismisses this warning and tells Sheila to be quiet.
  • Sybil notes that Eric is distressed, probably because he's had too much to drink at the dinner. When Sheila mentions that Eric's drinking is a steady problem. Sybil counters that this isn't the case, and is embarrassed that the subject is brought up before the Inspector. 
  • Sybil asks Gerald whether Eric's drinking is a problem, and to Sybil's chagrin (annoyance) he agrees that it is.
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Act 2

  • Arthur returns to the room. He says he has tried to persuade Eric to go to bed because of his drunkenness, but the Inspector warns that Eric, too, will be questioned that evening.
  • Sheila worries what will happen to the family when the Inspector has finished his investigation.
  • The Inspector turns to Gerald. He asks Gerald directly if he knows a girl named Daisy Renton. Gerald at first refuses, but Sheila warns him he ought to come clean to the Inspector.
  • Gerald admits to knowing her and tells Sheila again that she won't like anything he has to say about Eva/ Daisy.
  • Gerald says he met Daisy, who introduced herself only as Daisy, at a bar where he assumed she was a prostitute, and where a lecherous older man had cornered her. Gerald helped defend Daisy from the gentleman's advances, for which Daisy was grateful.
  • Gerald says that he arranged for Daisy to live at a friend's apartment in town while the friend was away for business. Gerald maintains that he did not initially support the girl in order to have an affair, but she did become his mistress. Their affair lasted for some months. Gerald knew that the relationship would end, as did Daisy, and by the beginning of September, he told her they could no longer see each other. 
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Act 2

  • Gerald says that, though he feels guilty for lying to Sheila, he "did what any man would do" in protecting Daisy, and he does not regret the time they shared. Gerald tells the Inspector he lost contact with Daisy. The Inspector informs him that, in her diary, she wrote she had gone away for 2 months to the seaside, to think about what had happened between her and Gerald.
  • Gerald asks the Inspector if he might walk outside, to collect his thoughts. The Inspector allows this. Before Gerald goes, he and Sheila talk in front of the rest of the family.
  • Sheila says she is still angry at him, but not as mad as she was before hearing the story of the affair from him because at least now no secrets are being kept. She says that if they are to repair their relationship, they must begin from scratch, and see if they can become intimate again knowing what they now know about their pasts. Gerald leaves the room, and the Inspector turns to Sybil.
  • Sybil thinks that the interrogation should be over. But the Inspector says that Sybil might know something about the girl's death. He shows her the picture, and Sybil, not responding at first, hands the picture back, saying she has no memory of her. 
  • Arthur tells the Inspector that he is behaving rudely and that he, Arthur, should be respected as a "public man".
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Act 2

  • The Inspector says that Arthur has responsibilities as a citizen, as well as privileges. Sheila announces to Sybil, Arthur, and the Inspector that she knows Sybil has recognised Daisy, based on Sybil's reaction to the photo.
  • Sheila begs Sybil and Arthur to say what they know about Daisy's death.
  • The front door opens and shuts. The family wonders if Gerald has come back, or if Eric has gone out, but neither person enters the room.
  • The Inspector asks Sybil if she is a member of the Brumley Women's Charity Organisation, and Sybil says that she is and that she is proud of the group's community work. The Inspector tells Sybil and the family that Sybil must recognise the girl because she saw her only 2 weeks before that night when the girl petitioned the charity for financial assistance.
  • Sybil agrees that this is the case, and he husband and daughter are shocked. Sybil says that the charity refused to give the girl money because of her "impudence".
  • The Inspector asks what name the girl provided to the charity. Sybil says the girl did not provide the name Eva Smith, nor Daisy Renton, but "Mrs. Birling".
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Act 2

  • Sybil found this to be a cruel, impossible joke since the girl had no relation to the Birling family. Sybil tells the Inspector that this "prejudiced" her against her girl's case from the beginning. 
  • Sybil defends hers and the charity's decision to withhold assistance because she did not find the girl's claim for aid compelling.
  • The Inspector reveals to the family that the girl required aid because she was going to have a child.
  • When Arthur interjects to ask whether Gerald was the father, the inspector says no, that it was another, yet unnamed man.
  • Sybil says that, first, the girl claimed to be married and to have been abandoned by her husband. Sybil told the girl that this husband should be responsible for paying the child's bills. 
  • Sybil says under the pressure of questioning, the girl revised her story to say that she was not married to the father of her child, and that could no longer take money from that man because she knew his money was stolen.
  • Sybil argues to the Inspector that, because the girl changed her story, Sybil did not know which to believe, and despite the girl's dire straits, Sybil rejected her petition.
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Act 2

  • The inspector leads Sybil into admitting that the father of the girl's child bears enormous responsibility for the girl's difficulties and eventual death. Sheila and Arthur realise, with great disappointment that Eric is probably the father of the child, thus explaining why Daisy would resent herself to the Women's Charity as Mrs. Birling. 
  • Sybil then realises, after seeing the looks on Arthur and Sheila's faces, that Eric is most likely to blame. At this moment, caught in her statement that Eric should suffer for his malfeasance, Eric reenters the room, and all the characters stare at him expectantly.
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Act 2- quotes

Inspector- we'll have to share our guilt

Sheila- we all started like that- so confident

Sybil- girls of that class-

Sheila- you mustn't try to build up a kind of wall between us and that girl

Gerald- I've suddenly realised - taken it in properly

Sybil- disgusting affair

Inspector- apologise for what- doing my duty?

Inspector- public men, Mr. Birling have responsibilities as well as privileges

Sybil- I consider I did my duty

Sybil - it's his (the father of Daisy's child) responsibility

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Act 3

  • wtihEric back in the room, Sheila points out what all the characters know, and that Sybil's speech against the father of Eva/ Daisy's child will force her to condemn Eric's actions. Sheila notes that Eric is an alcoholic, and Eric admits that he was very drunk the first night he met the girl, although Eric does not supply the name with which she introduced herself to him.
  • On the Inspector's questioning, Eric admits to beginning an affair with the girl, after following her back from the bar one night and convincing her to let him into her room.
  • Eric relates that, after several such meetings, the girl tells him that she is pregnant and that she will need financial support for the unborn child.
  • To provide the money, Eric swindles Arthur's company, cashing out receipts without returning the payments to the office.
  • Arthur is furious when he hears this, and Eric realises that the truth of his theft and relationship are out.
  • With the family in a state of anguish, the inspector goes from birling to birling, blaming them each in turn for a share of the guilt regarding Eva/ Daisy's suicide.
  • The inspector blames Arthur for firing her, Sheila for getting her fired again, Gerald and Eric for having illicit relationships with her, and Sybil for refusing aid when she ended up pregnant.
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Act 3

  • Arthur says that Eric is primarily at fault for the family's situation. Arthur worries that there will be a "public scandal2 made of the family's relationship to Eva Smith's death.
  • Eric criticises Arthur for worrying about his potential knighthood, considering that Eva/ Daisy is dead.
  • Sheila also criticises Arthur and Sybil and says that in thinking about their reputations, they are trying to move beyond Daisy's suicide and pretend that nothing terrible happened. 
  • Eric reminds Arthur of the speech Arthur gave to Gerald and Eric, before the inspector's arrival, about how men should "look out for themselves first".
  • Sheila upon hearing this and the inspector's parting words, wonders if he is a legitimate police inspector after all.
  • Eric and Sheila agree that, even if the Inspector was not really a public servant, he interrogated the family and found out their complex relationship to Eva's death.
  • Eric and Sheila agree that he did "inspect" them.
  • Arthur realises that perhaps Inspector Goole is not a genuine inspector, says that this difference is crucially important. For if the inspector was not acting officialy, the family's collective guilt can't be made into a "public scandal", and there will be no impact on Arthur's business reputation or on his knighthood
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Act 3

  • Arthur accuses Sybil, Eric, and Sheila of being susceptible to the Inspector's bluffing, as the inspector tricked them into revealing all they knew. Arthur believes that the inspector is a "socialist" and a "crank.
  • Edna, the maid, announces that Gerald is back, and he enters the room. Gerald says he has run into a police sergeant during his walk outside, and the sergeant tells him there is no officer in Brumley named Inspector Goole. Gerald concludes that the Inspector was a fraud, and Arthur agrees, saying that the family has been "hoaxed".
  • Arthur begins thinking through the damage done and hastily concludes that, if the family can keep the night's proceedings a secret, their reputations will not be harmed.
  • Sheila and Eric dispute this. Sheila asks everyone in the family to consider his or her part in Daisy's suicide, and she again castigates Arthur for pretending the events of the night were entirely unreal, even as the characters' revelation of wrongdoing are authentic.
  • Arthur phones the police force, confirming there is no Inspector Goole. Gerald admits that he really did have an affair, he was not lying to the Inspector.
  • Eric says he wants to leave the family and travel far away from them. But Arthur says that Eric must work for the family business to pay back the money he stole.
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Act 3

  • Gerald reasons that because no characters saw Daisy's photo simultaneously, and because of the frequent changes of her name, the family members might not actually be speaking about the same woman.
  • Their actions each would have been true as reported, but the common link between them the Inspector might have faked.
  • Arthur calls the local hospital and verifies that no suicide has been brought in for weeks. Arthur is now convinced that the Inspector has utterly tricked the family. He believes that since no one died, the family member's actions are not so grave.
  • Sheila protests that Arthur is trying even more concertedly to cover up the revelations of the evening. Arthur says he has no interest in doing so, but Daisy's "unreal" death changes everything.
  • Sheila disagrees, saying that the family members each behaved uncharitably and that the actuality of Daisy's death should have nothing to do with the calculation of the immorality of their actions.
  • Sheila tells Arthur that he "began to learn something, but now [he's ] stopped". The phone rings and Arthur relays to the family that a girl has just been transported to the hospital, dead "after swallowing some disinfectant".
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Act 3

  • As the curtain falls, Arthur announces that a police inspector is headed to the house to interrogate the family. All on stage are left shocked.
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Act 3- quotes

Sybil- you're not that type- you dont get drunk

Inspector- adjust your family relationships

Eric- he's admitted he was responsible for the girl's condition

Eric- you're not the kind of father a chap could go to when he's in trouble

Inspector- you'll be able to divide the responsibility when i'm gone

Inspector- but each of you helped to kill her

Inspector- we are responsible for each other

Arthur- you're the one i blame for this

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Arthur Birling

  • Arthur's primary concerns are the Birling family's good name, and his ability to climb in early 20th century English society
  • Arthur knows that his firm is successful, however, it is not a success as the Croft's business
  • Arthur does not yet possess a title as the Crofts do, so he gleefully tells Gerald in act 1 that he is expecting a knighthood.
  • Arthur does seem a bit upset at the idea that he contributes to Eva Smith's death- he is more upset that his family's implication in the scandal would become public. This would mean that his knighthood might be withheld and that Birling would no longer continue his social ascent. 
  • Arthur's opinion, that men ought to only look after themselves as individuals, is a strictly capitalist mentality, in which owners of capital value only profits, and do not care for workers' rights.
  • As Sheila says in act 3, the Inspector calls just as Arthur tells Eric and Gerald that they must put their own interests before anyone else's and that socialist ideas of human brotherhood are strange and not to be trusted. Sheila wonders if the Inspector's visit was meant to prove to Arthur that people's lives are actually very complexly intertwined.
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Arthur Birling

  • arthur is the head of the Birling household
  • he has made himself a "hard-headed" businessman
  • he is an active member of the community in Brumley and thinks that he might be in the running for a knighthood
  • at the start of the play, he comes across as being arrogant, making long speeches about his predictions for the future
  • he also makes assertions about how a man should look for number one and not waste time helping others- it is at this, exact moment the inspector arrives
  • he is materialistic and possessive and also has old-fashioned views about women - they are "cheap labour"
  • he is shaken by the interrogation during the investigation and is shocked by the behaviour of his son Eric.
  • he doesn't learn any lessons during the course of the play
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Arthur Birling

  • Mr. Birling is confident that there will not be a war, saying that "there isn't a chance of war" and then repeating his idea when he considers it being "impossible". His arrogance and complacency are made very clear. The audience, knowing that just 2 years after this speech, world war one will begin, see that Mr. Birling is wrong on this idea, and on many others, including his predictions that the Titanic is "unsinkable". The audience automatically loses trust in him as a character. 
  • Mr. Birling makes some old-fashioned and patronising point about women and how they view clothes and appearance- "clothes just mean something quite different to a woman". He shows that he is quite sexist by suggesting that clothes are somehow more important to women than to men. The fact that he thinks clothes "make 'em look prettier" shows he objectifies women too.
  • Mr. Birling is a businessman whose main concern is making money. This is what is most important to him and he comes across as being greedy- "lower costs and higher prices". It is clear here that Mr. Birling is driven by money, he is a capitalist. The fact that he sees his daughter's engagement as a business opportunity shows how greedy he is.
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Social and historical context

  • the play was written after world war 2 in 1945, there was no form of welfare from the government to help the poor. JB Priestly believe in socialism, the political idea based on common ownership and that we should all look after one another. Mr. Birling represents greedy businessmen who only care for themselves. Priestly uses Mr. Birling to show the audience that the Eva Smiths of the world will continue to suffer if people like Mr. Birling remain in positions of power. 
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Sybil Birling

  • Sybil Birling is Arthur's wife, right from the beginning of the play she is cold-hearted and snobbish despite being a prominent member of local women's charity.
  • Throughout dinner, she tells Sheila and Eric off for things that she considers impolite whilst ignorantly turning a blind eye to her son drinking too much. It is clear that despite Eric being old enough to drink and Sheila getting married, she sees them both as children, not as a young man and woman.
  • Her cold, uncaring nature leads to her downfall as the Inspector forces her to unknowingly condemn her own son.
  • Mrs. Birling is very unsympathetic when describing Eva Smith's position. Sybil assumes instantly that because Eva is pregnant and single she is a bad person- "she was claiming elaborate fine feelings that were absurd in a girl in her position". She assumes that just because Eva is unmarried and pregnant that she is unable to have "fine feelings", a very cruel and cold opinion to have.
  • When the Inspector suggests that Eric is used to drinking, Mrs. Birling jumps quickly to Eric's defense. "He's only a boy"- she shows her ignorance by stating that Eric is only "a boy", he is not a boy but a young man, Sybil refuses to see this.
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Sheila Birling

  • At the start of the Sheila Birling is celebrating her engagement to Gerald Croft, Sheila is seen to be a giddy, naive and childish young lady. When Sheila is told about Eva Smith's suicide she is very shocked and she is also very regretful of her own involvement in the suicide.
  • As the play continues, she matures, admiring Gerald's honesty, even though he cheated on her. She shows her assertive side by standing up to her mother and father and she also shows that she is insightful and intelligent- she can see where the Inspector's investigation is going and tries to warn the others. "I tell you- it was anything but a joke".
  • JB Priestly feels that the youth show a sign of hope that the youth are the ones that can help solve the problems the countries had with class, gender, and social responsibility. This is seen in how Sheila is deeply affected by Eva's death, she accepts responsibility straightaway and promises to never behave in such a way again. She is also the first to realise that their family is responsible for the death of Eva Smith.
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Eric Birling

  • Eric is described as "not quite at ease, half shy, half assertive". In other words, he lacks in confidence. At points within the play he tries to stand up to his father but is talked down, it becomes clear that he is drunk at the dinner table and later it is revealed that he has been drinking too much for quite some time. 
  • The stage directions describe Eric as being "half shy, half assertive" and this comes across in his dialogue. He is awkward and unsure of himself, here he cannot explain his sudden laughter. 
  • At the start of the play, Eric tries to stand up to his father but lacks the confidence to do it. After the truth about Eva Smith has come out, he has grown up enough to confidently state his point "I did what I did. and mother did what she did. And the rest of you did what you did to her", his repetition of "I did", "she did", "you did" shows that Eric is clear in his mind who is to blame for the death of Eva Smith. 
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