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An Inspector Calls Coursework - How Does Sheila Birling's Character Change as a Result of Eva's Story in An Inspector Calls?

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Introduction

An Inspector Calls Coursework - How Does Sheila Birling's Character Change as a Result of Eva's Story in An Inspector Calls? John Boynton Priestley was born in 1894 and died in 1984. He was famous for contemplating science and philosophy, and wrote many plays to put forward his socialist views. An Inspector Calls was one of these, and is about a wealthy upper-middle class family, the Birlings, and how their views on living change as a result of a visit from an inspector. The main characters are the Birlings, Inspector Goole and Eva Smith. Arthur Birling is a successful businessman; his wife, Sybil, is very pretentious; and their rather peculiar son, Eric, is an alcoholic. Eric's sister, Sheila, has recently engaged to Gerald Croft, a gentleman of a slightly higher social class than the Birlings - Mr. Birling feels a little inferior because of this. We do not know a lot about the Inspector - he is given an air of mystery and importance - but it is possible that he could be an apparition of some kind or perhaps a figure to represent Priestley's own views. Eva Smith is an absent character who nevertheless plays a huge part in the storyline. The play takes place solely in the dining room of the Birlings' house, which is "heavily comfortable but not homelike". This unified setting is beneficial in many ways. One thing is that it lowers the costs and requirements of the production of the play, meaning that it can be performed in a wider variety of settings and therefore be shown to more people. In addition, the audience will focus on the actors and the plot rather than the set so much if it does not keep changing, which helps retain attention to the play. The play begins as Gerald Croft and the Birlings are celebrating as a family Sheila Birling and Gerald's engagement, when the evening is interrupted by the arrival of Inspector Goole. ...read more.

Middle

I think that the point at which Sheila shows that she has started to realise that they are all guilty is when she says, "And probably between us we killed her." She understands that the Inspector has a great amount of power over them and is going to convey the true story to them. Her mother does not feel the same way - she says, "Sheila, don't talk nonsense" when Sheila mentions her thoughts. Sheila is now beginning to behave much more assertively to her parents and almost helping the Inspector to probe for confessions from Gerald and especially Mrs. Birling. For example, she says, "Go on, Mother. You might as well admit it" and "Of course, Mother. It was obvious from the start. Go on, Gerald. Don't mind Mother." This suggests that she has decided that she is not simply going to agree with her family's point of view any more - she wants to make her own judgements without the bias that her parents have. I think that she understands a lot better than the others do that if they behave as though it is beneath them to look after people less wealthy than themselves, it will only be worse for them in the end. I think that Priestley might have created Sheila's character to show that the people who would not accept responsibility for what they had done came off a lot worse than Sheila, who admitted it without trying to cover up the facts. When Gerald has finally told everything about his affair with Daisy Renton, Sheila comments, "At least it's honest." She is presented as angry that the rest of her family are not being honest because she knows that the Inspector is determined to make them confess in the end. She feels that it is pointless trying to cover things up and it is much easier just to tell the truth it the first place. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, Mrs. Birling comes off extremely badly in the end, after describing the punishment that the father of Eva's child should receive, before discovering that this person is her own son, Eric. This indicates that Priestley thinks anyone with the same point of view as Mrs. Birling deserves the shock and disgrace that she brought upon herself. Eva Smith has supposedly committed suicide as a result of actions taken by each one of the people present, but towards the end they begin to question the truth in what the Inspector has said. I think that whether or not she actually exists in the story, we could interpret her character as an embodiment of the Gerald and the Birlings' guilt. I think this because when the sins that each of them committed are brought together, it is possible that they could amount to a young girl killing herself, even if this did not actually happen. Overall, I think that JB Priestley is saying that we should treat each other with equal respect, regardless of social class or background, and wealthy people should not abuse their position for power over others. I think the Inspector's final speech is very powerful, especially, "... their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, and what we say and do. We don't live alone. We are members of one body." This is a summary of what JB Priestley and the Inspector believe in, and I think that Priestley could have created the Inspector as a representation of himself and his own views. He gives the Inspector "an impression of massiveness" and throughout the play he seems entirely powerful, calm and in control. I think that Priestley wants the Inspector to have a mysterious air and represent himself and his socialist views being correct, rather than the Birlings'. I think that Priestley intended the audience to come away with a sense of unity between everyone, whether rich or poor, and an understanding of the impact a small action of theirs could have on somebody else's life. ...read more.

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