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An Inspector Calls: In what ways do Eric and Sheila's attitudes differ from those of their parents as the play develops?

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In what ways do Eric and Sheila's attitudes differ from those of their parents as the play develops? In the opening scenes the Birlings are united almost as a family, (Gerald Croft is not quite part of the family yet, as he is only engaged to Sheila) the atmosphere is calm, quiet and relaxed, this changes with the arrival of the Inspector, and the "family" are on their guard against the him, and later, cracks in the "family" begin to show... The introduction to the play gives an impression of comfort and wealth; the "family" members are sitting round their dinner table celebrating Sheila's engagement to Gerald. Near the beginning of the play, Eric disagrees with some points that his father makes in his dramatically ironic speeches. Since the play is written in hindsight, the audience can see just wrong Arthur is, especially on war and the Titanic. Arthur also tries to impress Gerald by claiming that he is due for a knighthood, "...so long as we behave ourselves - don't get into the police court or start a scandal - eh?" and everything seems fine until the Inspector arrives... There are two points around this time when there are hints made (oblivious to characters themselves) towards the shameful past that Eric has, the first one is when Arthur says that clothes are a token of a woman's respect, Eric nearly says something and then stops himself, his father makes a comment on this, "...you don't know what some of these boys get up to nowadays." ...read more.


Arthur continues his concern for himself and his reputation here, "...when this comes out at the inquest, it isn't going to do us much good. The Press might easily take it up-" There are hints as to who the father of Eva's baby is, but they seem to go unnoticed, such as when Eva is quoted as telling Sybil that he was; "...only a youngster - silly and wild and drinking too much..." she is also quoted as saying; "...he was someone who didn't belong to her class..." Sybil seems to have quite a backwards mentality, hinted at when the Inspector asks her who the responsibility lies with; she seems to imply that other people's actions were the girl's own fault. Then when given the opportunity, she blames the unborn baby's father; "If the girls death is due to anybody, then it's due to him." and says that "...he ought to be dealt with very severely-" She is interrupted by Sheila who seems to have realized that every member of the family has encountered this girl and played a part in her death and may have also recognized the clues (mentioned above) and who they point to... But she is ignored, and Sybil carries on and says that this man should be made an example of and that it is the Inspector's duty to do that. Sybil tries to get the Inspector to go but when he tells her that he is waiting to do his duty she finally realizes what Sheila was attempting to tell her, but still tries do deny it; "But surely . ...read more.


By the end they have not changed at all. By contrast their children have shown concern, honesty and remorse and become entirely different people to their parents. Gerald Croft is a form of middle ground in all this, he did nothing wrong, possibly apart from having a relationship with Eva, but when the inspector has left, he sides with the parents in thinking that if this man was not an inspector after all, everything is fine. Arthur seems to consider himself superior to a lot of people, and I doubt he would like admitting inferiority to anyone. The moral of the play is summarized in the final thing that the inspector says before leaving, and it is essentially this: If people do not learn to care for each other, regardless of social or economic status, they will be taught how in fire and blood and anguish. (Referring to World War I, The play is set in 1912, so that would start in two years, (1914 - 1918)(I noted that when talking to Eric and Gerald, Arthur mentioned the impossibility of war)) The moral directly contradicts the speech that Arthur was giving the two young men near the start of the play just before the inspector arrived. I cannot help wondering, assuming that if (in the context of the play) the things that happened to this girl are true, that they all happened to the same girl and that it is a genuine inspector coming round to ask these questions after the end of the play, whether Arthur and Sybil Birling would behave any differently to the way they did in the previous few hours. ...read more.

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