Friday, July 13, 2012

'An Inspector Calls' by JB Priestly

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'An Inspector Calls' by J.B Priestly.

Write expressing opinion about three of the main characters in the play. Support your views by detailed reference to the text and include a section in which you comment on to what extent the characters change during the play.

                           Mr Birling

When we are introduced to Mr Birling we immediately get the impression that he is an extremely boastful person. We get this impression when he says “I was an alderman for years and Lord Mayor two years ago and I’m still on the bench”

He also mentions that he may be getting a knighthood “I might find my way into the next Honours list”

It makes him seem even more boastful. Mr Birling refers to himself as a hardheaded business man this shows us that he has a high opinion of himself.

He is a very opinionated man and believes that he is knowledgeable and can forecast the future accurately. One of his predictions is that the Titanic will never sink “ Unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable”

This one and many of his other predictions were wrong and so he tends to come across as a ridiculous character and we tend to laugh at him at this point in the play.

Mr Birling’s daughter Sheila is engaged to Gerald Croft, he is pleased about the engagement for all the wrong reasons. He is very insincere and is pleased because his business will benefit, he is clearly someone who is motivated by money.

“A man has to …look after himself and his own”

“Community and all that nonsense”

He tells the younger generation that they should look after themselves and their own family and not care about anybody else. This conveys him as a selfish man and he is bringing up his children to be the same way.

He completely refuses to accept responsibility for his actions. He is very arrogant and ignores what others say. He has no compassion and isn’t really affected by the news of Eva’s suicide.

“Well, we’ve several hundred young women there "know and they keep changing"

This shows us that he doesn’t care and doesn’t have a caring attitude towards his employees.

We notice that he doesn’t have a very good relationship with his son Eric. On page sixteen we see Eric contradicting his farther.

“why shouldn’t they try for higher wages?”

This gives us a subtle clue that all is not right between Eric and his father. We get a very strong impression later on that he is a bad father that doesn’t have time for his children.

“You aren’t the type of father a chap could go to when he is in trouble”

At the end of the play we see that he is very stubborn because he won’t change his views at all. They call the police station and the Infirmary in order to see if the inspector was a fake. After successfully finding out that he was a fake Mr Birling wants to forget everything that has happened and carry on as before. He sees the whole thing as a joke in spite of Sheila’s attempt to make him see that they all behaved badly.

Mr Birling isn’t changed at all by the ordeal and learns nothing.

                     Mrs Birling

Mrs Birling has the same principles as her husband; she believes that they are superior. Mrs Birling mentions “Girls of that class” on several occasions; this shows us that she associates bad behaviour with the lower class.

Mrs Birling still sees Sheila as a child even though she is in her twenty’s

“You seem to have made a great impression on this child, Inspector”

She talks to Eric as a child as if belittling him. She doesn’t have a very strong relationship with her children, treating them like children when they are in their twenty’s might have had a damaging effect on them.

She, like her husband, wants to connect the family with influential people, and she uses name-dropping in order to make the family look better.

“You know of course that my husband was Lord Mayor only two years ago and that he’s still a magistrate”

When she enters the room on page twenty-nine, she shows a great deal of arrogance and insensitivity. She doesn’t try to understand what has been going on in the room previous to her arrival and adopts a very superior attitude.

“Mrs Birling enters briskly and self-confidently, quite out of key with the little scene that has just passed”

She is a very stubborn woman; we see this when she refuses to stop talking even after Sheila has warned her.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about Sheila”

She wants everyone to think that her family is perfect and doesn’t want the truth to come out, such as Eric’s drinking.

We see that Mrs Birling has a strong personality and isn’t the quiet wife that we would expect her to be.

“ Now, Arthur, I don’t think you ought to talk business on an occasion like this”

She is quite dominant and isn’t afraid to express her views. “Arthur, you’re not supposed to say such things”

We find out that she is the chairperson of Brumley women’s charity organisation. This reveals a lot of her faults. We hear that she was prejudice towards a girl from a different social class.

“Oh, she had some fancy reason. As if a girl of that sort would ever refuse money”

She has made up her mind about Eva Smith with out any grounds.

“We’ve done a great deal of useful work in helping deserving cases”

This is ironic because she refuses to help Eva. She had double standards. She was prejudice towards her from the start. She is in an influential position; she abused this position and used her power against Eva smith.

“I’ll tell you what I told her. Go and look for the farther of the child. It’s his responsibility”

“I accept no blame for it at all”

She won’t accept any blame she believes that she is blameless.

On page sixty-two she says, “I couldn’t imagine a real police inspector talking like that to us?”

Even at the end of the play she still has a superior attitude and has changed very little, if at all. She believes that they can return to normal after they find out the Inspector was a fake.

“And now I say we must discuss this business quietly and sensibly and decide if there’s anything to be done about it”

At the end of the play we see how little she has changed and that she sees the whole thing as a joke.


When we first see Sheila she is in a happy mood, they are celebrating her engagement

“Perfect, now I really feel engaged”

When we hear that a girl has committed suicide Sheila appears to care and feel sympathy towards her.

“Sorry! I can’t help thinking about this girl - destroying herself so horribly - and I’ve been so happy tonight”

Sheila has some sense of what is right and wrong “These girls aren’t cheap labour they’re people” This makes her sympathy more apparent and some compassion is evident. On page twenty-four we hear how Sheila got Eva Smith fired from Millwards. She uses her social status to have Eva sacked. This incident also shows us that she can be childish

“when I was looking at myself in the mirror I caught sight of her smiling at the assistant and I was furious with her”

She was jealous of Eva so she got her fired this shows us that she is selfish and spoilt. When she finds out the consequences of these actions she sees the error of her ways and regrets what she did.

“I’ll never do it again to anybody”

Sheila isn’t as arrogant as Mr and Mrs Birling because she admitted that she was in the wrong, they would never do that. Sheila however develops into an honest person. She comes to see that Gerald can’t hide the truth any longer, where as he thinks he can hide it.

“Yes, we can keep it from him”

“Why - you fool he knows”

Sheila believes that it’s time everything was out in the open she doesn’t see the point in hiding anything any more. She tells them about Eric’s drinking habits

“He’s been steadily drinking too much for the last two years”

She is admitting that her family had problems and are far from perfect. She is becoming a lot more open and honest the whole experience has changed her for the better. Sheila also develops the ability to analyse the reasons for the inspectors visit she also begins seeing the faults of her family.

She is very realistic

“Probably between us we killed her”

This shows bravery because she is willing to admit the truth. We see a forceful side to Sheila when she stands up to her mother

“Stop it, Mother”

This is an achievement in it’s self because her Mum has always treated her like a child.

The end of the play shows us that Sheila has learnt something. Her attitude is very different to that of her parents. She makes a point that they all behaved badly

“Everything we said had happened really had happened”

Sheila is horrified with her parent’s behaviour

“It frightens me the way you talk”

She can’t believe that they are willing to continue as they where before. She has been changed by the whole experience and seems more mature about it than her parents do.

Sheila is a representative for the younger generation this shows us that there is hope for the future because she has behaved badly, but she recognised this and now wants to make changes.

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