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Compare the way in which Sheila and Mrs Birling respond to what happens in the play and what they do, or do not learn.

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Introduction

Rebecca Lloyd 10W 16th December 2001 Exam question: At the end of the play, Sheila says to Mrs Birling and the rest of her family, 'I tell you- whoever the inspector was it was anything but a joke. You knew it them. You began to learn something. And now you've stopped. You're ready to go on in the same old way.' Compare the way in which Sheila and Mrs Birling respond to what happens in the play and what they do, or do not learn. You may wish to consider: * The death of Eva Smith. * The words of the inspector. * The attitudes of Sheila and Mrs Birling to other people. Mrs Birling and Sheila Birling both react very differently to the news of Eva's death as told to them by the inspector. The inspector also treats the two in quite a different way applying the blame more heavily onto Mrs Birling than on Sheila. As the inspector tells Sheila of Eva's suicide and of the horrible death that Eva suffered, she feels sorry for the girl. ...read more.

Middle

She comes across as an arrogant and domineering woman with little compassion. Mrs Birling was the last person to see Eva and was the one to give Eva the final shove. She not only refused Eva help herself but made sure that the other members refused her help too. As the inspector tells her, 'you turned her away when she most needed help.' She was adamant that she did, 'nothing I am ashamed of'. Her lack of understanding about how people live is shown in the snobbish comments about a 'girl of that sort.' It was clear that Mrs Birling disliked Eva and harshly judged her. She admitted, 'I didn't like her manner.' She has a clear conscience and is convinced that her position is justified. She also takes the blame away from herself by blaming Eva and even Arthur for starting it all. She never takes responsibility for her actions, and at no point blames herself. She stands up to the inspector and I can see that she is a strong character but is so narrow minded that she is led into condemning her own son for Eva's death. ...read more.

Conclusion

She has taken full responsibility of her actions and understands that a lesson can and should be learnt from the Inspectors visit, prank or not. I feel her future attitude towards others; especially others of a lower class will be more caring, self-controlled and responsible. Mrs Birling does not learn anything from the inspector. Throughout his inquiry she has been quick to defend herself against any blame and saw her case to be completely justified. When she finally realises that she condemned her own grandchild to death, she shows signs of weakening. She quickly recovers after the Inspector has left, and joins Arthur Birling in worrying about public opinion. This really shows her complete ignorance regarding what happened. Sheila was obviously very distressed by her parent's reactions, 'it frightens me the way you talk' to this Mrs Birling says, 'in the morning you will be as amused as we are,' this statement really sums up Mrs Birling's character and what she has learnt from the inquiry. Sheila has learnt a lot and I feel that she will 'never, never do it again.' The Inspector turned the family against each other and upside down. He made them think how one mindless action can make a lot of difference. ...read more.

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