English Literature - Unit 1 - Sybil Birling

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Sybil Birling

  • She is Arthur's wife. She's obsessed with etiquette and her status in society.
  • The Inspector gets Sybil to confess that she persuaded the Women's Charity Organisation to reject Eva/Daisy's appeal for help. Eva/Daisy was pregnant at that time. 
  • Sybil blames the father of Eva/Daisy's child for her death.
  • Eva/Daisy rejected the stolen money and turned to Sybil's charity for help. Eric says Sybil murdered her own grandchild by refusing to give her charity.
  • When Birling calls the hospital and finds out that no one has committed suicide. Birling, Sybil and Gerald decide it's all been a hoax and decide to relax.
  • Sybil works hard to keep up the Birlings' reputation in the community.
  • Sybil Birling is a hard nut to crack.
  • The Inspector presents Sybil with the photograph. She pretends she doesn't recognise it. 
  • Even when the Inspector manages to press the story out of her, Sybil won't accept the responsibility for her actions.
  • Theme: Young and Old: The Inspector increases the tension between the parents and children by using Sheila's help to get Sybil to tell the whole story.
  • Sybil can't imagine herself in a similar situation to Eva/Daisy - she can't empathise. Sybil is so obsessed with social class and reputation that she can't recognise connections between her life and anyone else's.
  • Sybil had the last chance to help her but she refused.
  • Mrs Birling persuaded the committee to turn down Eva/Daisy's request because:
    - Eva/Daisy said her name was "Birling". Mrs Birling thought it was a "piece of gross impertinence" (rude) for Eva/Daisy to dare to associate her own scandal with the Birling family name.
    - She changed her story. At first she said her husband had left her and she was pregnant, but later admitted she wasn't married. 
  • Theme: Social Class: Mrs Birling dismissed Eva/Daisy's story as "ridiculous" because she couldn't believe that a girl of "that sort" (working class) would ever refuse money. She based her refusal on class prejudice.
  • Priestley contrasts Sybil Birling's attempts to preserve her reputation with Eva/Daisy's moral standards. Eva/Daisy wouldn't marry the father of her child and wouldn't take any more money from him because:
    -He was a "youngster - silly and wild and drinking too much".
    - The money he'd been giving to her was stolen.
    - He didn't love her. 
  • Sybil won't take responsibility
  • After trying to resist all the Inspector's questions, Mrs Birling realises that she can blame the father of the child instead of admitting her own guilt.
  • Sybil starts to tell everyone what she thinks should happen to punish this "young man".
  • Sybil blames the father for getting involved with a girl from a different class. She assumes she wouldn't know a man who drinks and steals.
  • She say's that the Inspector should punish the man "very severely" before making him "confess in public his responsibility".
  • Mrs Birling really puts her foot in it.
  • While Sybil is blaming the father of the child, the Inspector doesn't intervene, but instead lets her walk straight…

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