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How does Priestly show the difference in attitudes of the younger and older generation?

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Priestly shows the difference in attitudes between the generations through a variety of different techniques. Although the most drastic difference is shown after the Inspector has left the family, we can still see a hint of contrast before he arrives. In the first few lines of the Act one, we get a clue that Sheila is not that happy with her fiancé Gerald. She says to Gerald ‘(half-serious, half-playful) Yes- except for all last summer, when you never came near me.’ This shows that Sheila perhaps has higher expectations of Gerald, and is already quite suspicious about his behaviour. She’s clearly not that willing for him to just not talk to her for long periods of time. It is proved that the older generation think differently however when Mrs Birling tells Sheila that she ought to get used to Gerald behaving in this way. She says ‘when you’re married you’ll realise that men with important work to do sometimes have to spend nearly all their time and energy on their business.’ Unlike Sheila, Mrs Birling of the older generation clearly thinks it’s acceptable for men to be away from their wives or partners for the majority of the time. It shows a lot of signs of male superiority, and the fact that men of the family can pretty much do what they want. ...read more.


She is honest about knowing who Eva is straight away, and catches on to the fact that The Inspector knows about the truth about the family extremely quickly. She confesses not only what she did to Eva Smith, but also how guilty she is and how much remorse she feels about Eva?s death. She acknowledges and accepts her faults straight away, much unlike her mother. When Mrs Birling is first shown the photograph of Eva she denies knowing her at all. The Inspector asks Mrs Birling if she recognises Eva, and Mrs Birling responds with ?No. Why should I?? Mrs Birling will only talk about her contact with Eva when the Inspector pushes her to, and at first is far too proud to even admit she?s seen her, and even when she eventually admits she refused the desperate Eva Smith charity, she maintains haughtily she?s done nothing wrong. Unlike Sheila Mrs Birling will not admit any flaws or failings on her part. She is prepared to lie to the Inspector to shield her image, and feels herself so superior to people like Eva Smith they are not even worth telling the truth about. When hearing how badly she?s affected another human being, Mrs Birling accepts no blame and feels no guilt like her daughter Sheila, and much like her husband and many of the older generation is only concerned with making sure none of the responsibility lies with her. ...read more.


There you are! Proof positive! The whole story?s just a lot of moonshine. Nothing but an elaborate sell! (He produces a huge sigh of relief.)? All the warnings and hints The Inspector has given the family have clearly gone straight over Mr Birling?s head. He is not relieved that nothing has happened to Eva Smith, but just pleased that he and his family can now be accused of nothing. After all the Inspector has revealed to them, Mr Birling still has trouble believing such a ?hard-headed businessman? as himself could be anything close to a criminal, or need any changing, and so can still be convinced the story?s a lot of ?moonshine? even though his family could have quite easily driven a girl to suicide between them. This is where Priestly shows the largest divide. Mr and Mrs Birling are unable to accept any responsibility and are only concerned with themselves and their reputation. Their children however can quite clearly see how the family are at fault, and this difference in attitude is shown throughout the book, with Mr and Mrs Birling displaying constant signs of ignorance and selfishness, and Eric and Sheila understanding a lot more, showing a lot more empathy and a sense of feeling and consideration to other people, whatever their class or gender. They are far less judgemental than their parents, and Priestly uses their speech and behaviour to show how different their attitudes are compared to their parents, and what a big generation gap there is. ...read more.

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