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Character Study on Inspecter Calls by J.B Priestly

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The play 'An Inspector Calls" by J.B Priestly, is set on an April evening in 1912. The play concerns the Birling family and Gerald Croft quietly celebrating over Gerald and (Mr. Birling's daughter) Sheila Birling's engagement, when an Inspector arrives unexpectedly amidst their family celebration to enquire about a suicide of a young pregnant girl called, Eva Smith.

Through questioning, the inspector uncovers that they all have some kind of an involvement to the young girl's death.

In the play, some characters are changed by the Inspector's arrival and news. Some however, remain the same.

One character who remains the same is Mrs Birling. In Act One, we are given a general impression of her; a well-mannered woman but one who knows her power of authority (being the wife of a well-off businessman and the chairwoman of Brumley Women's Charitable Society).

In Act Two, Mrs. Birling introduces herself in a polite and respectable manner to the inspector (quite unlike the character that she progresses into) but he finds it hard to get information out of Mrs. Birling, this can be shown with the these quotes (taken from just after the Inspector has shown Mrs. Birling a photograph of Eva);

(Inspector) "You recognise her?"

(Mrs Birling) "No. Why should I?"

Later in the play, the truth comes out that Mrs Birling had met the girl in the photo.

Sheila supported the Inspector when Mrs Birling wouldn't give out any information about Eva and tried to persuade her mother to talk but Mrs Birling took her as being rude and insolent and showed that she doesn't like being contradicted.

When Mrs Birling does tell the Inspector about Eva coming to her committee for help, she showed no remorse for the young girl. She took Eva as being impertinent when Eva said that her name was 'Mrs Birling' and was prejudiced against her case. Therefore, she used her power and authority (as being the chairwoman) to influence the others on the committee to abandon her case. Mrs Birling tried to reason with the Inspector about her judgments of Eva and with a clear conscience; she said she was,

" . . . perfectly justified in advising my committee not to allow her claim for assistance."

(This also shows how formally she spoke to Inspector as if try to level out his position in society compared to hers.)

Mrs. Birling was altogether very blunt towards the whole incident and tried to take the blame away from herself by blaming first Eva for her own death and then even Mr Birling for starting it all. She never tried to take responsibility for her actions but instead tried to push them onto someone else and at no point did she accept any blame on herself.

Mrs Birling was also a little stereotypical because she never tried to believe in her families' imperfections and for example, she refused to believe that Eric was an alcoholic and at times drank excessively.

Mrs Birling tried to stand up to the Inspector at one point in her interrogation and this shows that she is a strong character but was so narrow minded that she herself, in the end, was led to blaming her own son for Eva's death without knowing.

By the end of the play, Mrs Birling's character hasn't changed at all. She remains the uptight and narrow-minded woman that she was in the beginning through until the end.

In contrast to Mrs Birling, a character who does change in the play is Sheila Birling. In Act One she seems like an attractive character, but a little self centred as it seemed that she was enjoying the attention that her engagement was bringing to her. She seemed to be genuinely in love with Gerald and was quite affectionate towards him. She also seemed quite up-to-date with her language by using words like "squiffy".

When Sheila finds out about Gerald's affair, she takes it in decently and seems more mature than her parents. She seemed to value his honesty and was content that Gerald was finally telling her the truth about what he did last summer.

The changing point in Sheila's character is when she finds out about Eva's death and how she died. Sheila shows her disbelief in Act One.

"Oh, how horrible!"

This is the changing point for Sheila because she knows that she played a part in Eva's death. She also starts feeling sorry for Eva as he made her life hell. After this, she wants to help Eva as shown in Act One.

"And if I could help her now, I would".

This shows that she is not angry or jealous with Eva but she wants to help her.

Because she is more sensitive character than the others are, Sheila was the first to realise what the inspector was driving at in his interviews with herself and the other characters.

She sees through the other characters attempts to conceal the truth and is also aware that the inspector knows all about them and is the first to wonder whom the inspector really is. During the play Sheila objects to her parent's attempts to protect her from unpleasant truths,

"I'm not



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