inspector calls

quotes Mr Birling

  • a man has to make his own way—has to look after himself—and his family, too, of course, when he has one—and so long as he does that he won’t come to much harm. 
  • Arthur summarizes his economic and moral worldview for the two young men. His worldview is one of total individualism, where society is understood as a collection of persons and their families, each of which tries to maximize his or her own financial and social happiness.
  • Arthur and his family have enjoyed, and leads him to believe that everything he has is a direct consequence of his own power and achievement.
  • Arthur’s attitude is the very undoing of society and is responsible for disagreements between people generally
1 of 5

quotes Sheila Birling

  • ''No, that’s no use. You not only knew her but you knew her very well. Otherwise, you wouldn’t look so guilty about it.''
  • She encourages Gerald to come clean to the Inspector, because Sheila understands at this point in the play that the Inspector seems to know everything about the family already
  • It is revealed that Gerald was, largely, kind to Eva/Daisy, although he breaks off the relationship without much explanation, then returns to Sheila and says nothing of what has transpired. Gerald, like Sheila, is willing to eventually accept that he is complicit in the events leading to Eva/Daisy’ death
  •  He reiterates that he realizes the consequences of having an affair, even if Eva/Daisy did not actually commit suicide. Sheila’s relationship with Gerald is perhaps the most functional and honest in the play. It is an example of what happens when two people speak to each other about their misdeeds, and then attempt afterward to reconcile 
  • reconcile=restore friendly relations between.
  • transpired=(of a secret or something unknown) come to be known; be revealed.
2 of 5

quote Sheila Birling

''I don’t dislike you as I did half an hour ago, Gerald. In fact, in some odd way, I rather respect you more than I’ve ever done before.''

  • Here, Sheila here acknowledges that, at the very least, Gerald has been honest with her and with himself over the course of the evening. 
  • Gerald could be trying to rationalize and normalize his behavior as a way of saving face in front of the family and his fiancee. But it could also be a forthright acknowledgment of what he has done, and what was motivating his actions while he was choosing to carry them out.
  • sheila reserves her respect for Gerald’s admission here. She does not respect the other members of her family in nearly the same way, because these family members have not gone to Gerald’s lengths in attempting to make sense of what they have done, and to accept the culpability that arrives with that attempt.
  • Sheila realizes that her parents primary concerns are their appearance and what might become of them in social circles. They do not care what they have learned about each other. For Sheila, this is genuinely shocking and seems only to give credence to what the Inspector is saying, that many people in contemporary society care only for their own personal advancement.
  • rationalise=attempt to explain or justify (behaviour or an attitude) with logical reasons, even if these are not appropriate
  • or occurring at the same time.
3 of 5

quote for Mrs Birling

''If you think you can bring any pressure to bear on me, Inspector, you’re quite mistaken. Unlike the other three, I did nothing I’m ashamed of or that won’t bear investigation. ''

  • Sybil refuses to believe that what she has done in denying money to the Eva/Daisy is wrong. Instead, Sybil believes that she upheld the procedures of the charity of which she was the head
  • This resembles the justification that Arthur gives for protecting his profits above the wellbeing of his workers. 
  • Arthur and Sybil argue that it is for the businessman to protect his interests, and for the keeper of a charity to protect the “good name” of that organization and its principles. Because Eva/Daisy appears to lie about her circumstances due to prejudices against unwed mothers at the time, Sybil thinks that it is acceptable to refuse her request
  • Sybil has no guilt about this and does not seem to change her mind, even after she learns that Eric is the father of Eva/Daisy’s child.
  • This revelation serves only to upset Sybil and to cause her to believe that the family’s good name has been irrevocably sullied. Sybil, like Arthur, thinks that the worst fate that can befall anyone is a loss of social standing, or of good grace in the community.
  • But the Inspector hopes to prove to the Birling family throughout the play that such a conception is not only fundamentally wrong, but deeply damaging to the very fabric of society in which all humans live.
  • sullied=damage the purity or integrity of
  • unwed=not married
4 of 5

quote for the Inspector

''We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. ''

  • his speech motivated his very presence in the household. The Inspector’s version of socialism is particularly utopian
  • In the Inspector’s view, humans quite simply have an obligation to one another because it is right in the abstract to care for other people, and, more urgently, because a world that ignores the connections between people is not a stable world at all.
  • Thus the Inspector’s speech is the ultimate instance in the text of dramatic irony and foreshadowing
  • This reckoning, the Inspector says, will not be pleasant or easy. And perhaps it could be avoided altogether if people were more willing to consider those outside their immediate social or family circles.
  • Thus the Inspector is both a hardheaded pragmatist who warns of what can happen to society
  • utopian=modelled on or aiming for a state in which everything is perfect; idealistic.
  • pragmatist=a person who is guided more by practical considerations than by ideals
5 of 5


No comments have yet been made

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all An Inspector Calls resources »