Which characters change the most through the course of the play and why do they change?
This essay will be looking at which characters change and why throughout the play ‘An Inspector Calls’. ‘An Inspector Calls’ was written in 1945 by J.B. Priestley and is set in the spring of 1912. The play is about the Birlings, an upper class family who are paid an unexpected visit from the mysterious Inspector Goole. They are thoroughly interrogated by Goole, and eventually all end up having some sort of link to the death of Eva Smith, a pregnant ex-worker of Mr Birling’s factory.
The first character we will be looking at is Sheila, Mr and Mrs Birling’s daughter. At the beginning of ‘An Inspector Calls’, Sheila is a juvenile and ‘very pleased with life’. This shows that she has led a sheltered and pampered existence. Sheila also has a childish side and is known to bully her brother Eric. She uses ‘You’re squiffy.’ As a retort when Eric suddenly interrupts a conversation by laughing. This shows that she can be quite mean when she wants to be. When the inspector visits and Sheila’s involvement with the death is revealed, she feels instant remorse. We can see this from the line ‘Don’t you understand? If I could help her now I would-’. She is miserable and distressed as she explains what she did, and it is clear that she is dreadfully sorry. Sheila is not made to feel any better by the Inspector, who is quick to remark ‘It’s too late. She’s dead.’ It is apparent that the Inspector’s visit impacts Sheila hugely and that she is starting to take responsibility for her actions. ‘I know. I had her turned out of her job. I started it.’ This shows that she is a changed person. At the beginning of the play, Sheila denied having anything to do with it, but now her social conscience has been awakened and she sees other people’s opinions as valid. She is no longer in the own personal ‘bubble’ where she is all that matters, and the Inspector’s visit seems to have brought her into the real world.
Can a simple inspection turn people's minds around? Well, Inspector Goole certainly turned the Birling's mind around, by inspecting them one by one. During his inspection we see the effect he has on the play. He represents Priestley's central themes, and sends a message to the audience, stating that everything we do or say can affect other people's lives. And by his mysterious appearance we are ...
The next character is Eric, Sheila’s brother. At the start of the play, Eric seems slightly out of sync with the rest of his family. We can see this from the way he laughs in the middle of a conversation and the way Sheila reacts. He does not seem to have a very good relationship with his father, and we can see this from the impatience that he expresses when Mr Birling makes a toast. ‘We’ll drink to their health and be done with it.’ We can see that he is fed up with his father and his constant talk of business. It is also made known that he is a philanderer. ‘I wasn’t in love with her or anything, but I liked her…’ This shows that he was using her, and that he took advantage of those weaker than him. The Inspector’s visit has an effect on Eric that is similar to Sheila’s. By the end of the play, Eric is aware of his crime and he exemplifies his shame and guilt. His relationship with his father is further distanced when it is revealed that Eric stole money from him. ‘Because you’re not the kind of father a chap could go to when he’s in trouble.’ This openly exposes Eric’s opinion of his father’s parental skills as being inadequate. Eric and Sheila’s remorse over the death of Eva Smith brings them together. We can see this when Eric sarcastically says ‘That’ll be terrible for her won’t it?’ It is blatant that Eric has taken Sheila’s side over his mothers, where as at the beginning of the play it almost certainly would have been the other way around. This breakdown of family relationships further highlights the impact of the Inspector’s visit.
The next character to look at is Mr Birling, the head of the household. Mr Birling is greedy and self-centred, and he remains this way throughout the play. His business comes first, even before his family. Even when his daughter becomes engaged, his first thought is still the business prospects of the two families coming together.
... Eva’s death. Although the Inspectors effort had gone to waste on Mr and Mrs Birling and Gerald, Eric and Sheila definitely learn their ... about them and what they are hiding. Arthur Birling is an affluent business man who is quite wealthy, very authoritative and ... lesson. At the beginning of the play Sheila Birling is described as ...
‘You’ve brought us together, and perhaps we may look forward to the time when Crofts and the Birlings are no longer competing, but are working together.’
This shows that he is more interested in getting ‘lower costs and higher prices’ than his actual daughter, and wouldn’t want anything to jeopardize any potential business deals. When the Inspector, Birling is quick to deny that he and his company have anything to do with the death. ‘I don’t see where I come into this.’ It is clear that all Birling want is to avoid a scandal. ‘I’ve got to cover this up as soon as I can.’ All Birling cares about is his business and his reputation. At the end of the play, Mr Birling is still just as greedy and pompous as at the beginning. However, he is sorry about the death, but only how it will impact his knighthood and business, and so these changes are only temporary.
The next character is Mrs Birling, Mr Birling’s high-class wife. Sybil Birling is a snob, who is very prejudiced. When she says ‘Girls of that class’ , it is clear that she is a high-class woman who looks down on other classes. Mrs Birling married beneath her, and resents that. This manifests itself in an emotional coldness towards others. When the Inspector shows how she is involved in Eva’s death, she firmly accepts no responsibility. ‘I thought that I had done no more than my duty.’ This shows that even after she has been proven to be involved she believes that she did nothing wrong by turning Eva Smith away. Like Mr Birling, Mrs Birling does not change much, and any changes that do take place are only temporary.
In conclusion, Sheila and Eric are the characters that change the most. At the beginning of the play, Sheila is very self-centred and Eric is a lying thief. However, at the end of the play, they are both very different people to who they used to be. They both feel deep remorse and they are both aware of the consequences of their actions. The catalyst for this change is obviously the presence of the Inspector. His arrival is a huge interference of their lives that were seemingly prefect, but the harsh questioning that ensued wakes them up and makes then realise their sins.
The Term Paper on How Does the Character ‘Sheila Birling’ Change in the Play in ‘an Inspector Calls?’
How does the character ‘Sheila Birling’ change in the play in ‘An Inspector Calls?’ The play ‘An Inspector Calls was set in 1912 and written in 1945 by J.B Priestly. In those days society was capitalist, their was a massive division between upper class and lower class people, the wealth was not shared equally. The play is based on the Birling family headed by Arthur Birling who is a wealthy ...