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In what ways does 'Priestly' present the effects of the Inspector's visit on Sheila Birling in the play?

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In what ways does 'Priestly' present the effects of the Inspector's visit on Sheila Birling in the play? J.B Priestley uses a variety of dramatic techniques to portray the effects of Inspector Goole's visit on Sheila Birling. These devices include dialogue, physical action, stage directions and dramatic tension. Priestley places Sheila at the moral centre of the play. The Inspector's visit takes her through an array of emotions in a very compressed time span which heightens Sheila's anxiety and speeds her transformation. The action is played out in real time i.e. the events unfold on stage exactly as they would in real life. Many modern dramas have copied Priestley's theatrical technique ("24" TV series, and some episodes of E.R). At the beginning Sheila is shallow and "very pleased with life and rather excited". She later admits that she had been "confident and pleased with herself". We know this, as she likes money and possessions- Gerald Croft's ring ("Oh it's wonderful") and clothes. But from this beginning, when this rich family are celebrating Sheila's engagement (which is more like a company merger in Mr. Birling's eyes), their entire world is turned upside down. Sheila feels everything most deeply and Priestley has the Inspector repeat Eva Smith's agonising and unpleasant death by disinfectant several times which adds to her distress. Priestley starts Sheila's transformation half-way into the 1st Act. When Sheila hears of the death she is genuinely distressed but she is still selfish because she is annoyed that her evening has been ruined ("I've been so happy tonight. Wish you hadn't told me"). Priestley continues the transformation by giving Sheila the beginnings of a social conscience. When Sheila realises that Eva was sacked for asking for a pay rise, she tells her father that it was a mean thing to do. Priestley also brings about her political awareness. The Inspector points out that desperate girls like Eva feed the capitalist free market for cheap labour. ...read more.


I'll never, never do it again". This also shows that Sheila is keen and anxious to change her behaviour in the future. Sheila is full of guilt and says "If I could help her now...." Before the end of Act 1, Priestley adds to Sheila's grief by showing that she has been betrayed by Gerald Croft's disloyalty the previous summer. Gerald's attempt to stop the truth from coming out results in Sheila being hysterical by the end of Act 1. At the beginning of Act 2, Priestley ensures that Sheila is in the same hysterical (panic- stricken and frenzied) state, but he ensures that she remains centre stage. By doing this, Priestley also ensures that the audience knows that Sheila will learn everything. It will add to Sheila's understanding and her growth as a person, and she will be the better for it: "It can't be any worse or me than it has been. And it might be better". The Inspector wants Sheila to be made aware that she is not "entirely to blame" and that she shouldn't have to be "alone with her responsibility". Priestley ensures that the audience also understand this, because by this time Sheila has gained audience sympathy by her growing compassionate nature. Priestley uses irony and sarcasm to add range and create humour. When Gerald is being less than truthful, Sheila says "You were the wonderful Fairy Prince". When Gerald states that Eva/ Daisy Renton took the break up of their affair "gallantly", Sheila states ironically: "That was nice for you". Priestley proceeds to increase the dramatic tension during Act 2, and Sheila's emotions are so heightened that she becomes wilder when other family members keep underestimating the Inspector. She says (with a laugh) "No, he's giving us the rope, so that we'll hang ourselves". Mrs. Birling just thinks she's "over excited", but by this time Sheila and the audience share the same information and are ahead of the family members. ...read more.


I rather respect you more than I've ever done before..." But Sheila has changed, and Priestley ensures that the audience realises this: "...It was my fault that she was so desperate when you (Gerald) first met her..." The Sheila that we meet at the beginning of the play would not have accepted this. Sheila realises that she has changed too: "You and I aren't the same people who sat down to dinner..." Unfortunately it is only Sheila who goes through such a dramatic transformation. At the beginning of Act 3 Sheila is in tears because she is the only one who realises that not one of the guilty parties can now say "I'm sorry, Eva Smith". Sheila is reduced to tears when she says quietly: "That's the worst of it". She also begins to understand towards the end of the final act that very little changes. She says "bitterly"- I suppose we're all nice people now". "So there's nothing to be sorry for, nothing to learn. We can go on behaving just as we did". Priestly shows Sheila to be completely disappointed and disheartened by the others lack of awareness and their unwillingness to change, with the exception of Eric. The author's high moral position is reflected in Sheila's words and actions. Sheila states (passionately- Priestley's stage direction) "You're pretending everything's just as it was before". Sheila's disappointment is made worse by the others comments. Mrs. Birling states "Well why shouldn't we?" (That is, why shouldn't we carry on as before?) Sheila's response to the tragedy is the most positive aspect of the play. Sheila continues to question the family's attitudes and their refusal to acknowledge their guilt in the death of Eva Smith. She begins to learn about the importance of society, and her responsibility towards the less fortunate. This is Priestley's main theme throughout the play, and Sheila is his symbol for it. The audience can leave with this life-enhancing knowledge. ?? ?? ?? ?? Robdeep Sangha 10CJ (10S) English Coursework ...read more.

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