• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The Inspector takes the shallow morality of the Birlings and shows there is no love between them - He exposes the reality of the characters.

Extracts from this document...


English Coursework - 'An Inspector Calls' From the onset of the play we are shown a glimpse of the reality of the Birling family. The furniture appears expensive and seems to show the Birlings are a wealthy, highly regarded and reputable family. Still, the house does not appear inviting or cosy. The Inspector takes the shallow morality of the Birlings and shows there is no love between them. He exposes the reality of the characters. The stage directions convey self-satisfaction, as each character is smiling. This emphasises the characters' smugness as J.B. Priestley creates an atmosphere of superiority and arrogance, which the Inspector will eventually destroy. Sheila is very pleased with life and is rather excited about her engagement to Gerald. I think J.B Priestley is deliberately trying to portray Sheila as perhaps dizzy or unable to make an independent decision of her own. Gerald, on the other hand, appears worldly wise and quite grown up. He seems just as excited as Sheila about their marriage. However he has similar values to Mr Birling. Sheila's brother Eric is a strange character - he seems not totally at ease and quite shy. He does stand up to his father though and becomes opinionated at times. Finally Mrs Birling is a cold woman who doesn't lower herself and never stops thinking about herself. She does however seem happy about the engagement. This is the way the characters appear to the audience in the first part of the play. However some of their attitudes change as the Inspector interrogates them. Birling is an unpleasant character. On the surface he appears decent and respectable. The Inspector unleashes the genuine Mr Birling and exposes the reality under the veneer of respectability. Birling does not believe he has a responsibility to society, only to his family 'a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own'. ...read more.


Sheila is not annoyed that the Inspector is questioning the family in the way that Mr Birling is. She feels that the Inspector is not to blame and he is just doing his job. The Inspector manages to gain so much of Sheila's trust that she too believed the family should be interviewed to help solve the mystery of Eva's death. This can be seen when Mrs Birling is being questioned. The Inspector is finding it hard to get information out of Mrs Birling, just after the Inspector has shown Mrs Birling a photograph of Eva. 'You recognise her?' 'No. Why should I?' Later in the play the truth comes out that Mrs Birling had met the girl in the photo. Sheila helps persuade her mother to talk to the Inspector. This makes the audience view Sheila as a morally correct character as she always wants to know the truth and has a strong sense of right and wrong. Sheila uses a metaphor to explain what she believes the Inspector would do if the family hid information from him. 'You mustn't try to build up a kind of wall between us and that girl. If you do, then the Inspector will just break it down. And it'll be all the worse when he does.' This is a very perceptive and prescient comment from Sheila and shows how she is now sufficiently changed. This is a direct consequence of the Inspector's visit. The Inspector seems to have the power to bring out the truth in people, and to make them confess what they have done. Sheila's outburst is a direct effect of the Inspector's presence. He has a massive impact on Sheila's attitude. She is unable to accept her parents' attitude and is both amazed and concerned that they haven't learned anything from the episode. She learns of her responsibilities to others less fortunate than herself and is sensitive. ...read more.


When Sheila gives Gerald back the ring in Act 2 he would doubtless have wished to get back in favour with Mr and Mrs Birling. This state of mind means that he appears to finally come out on the side of Birling and he does whatever he can to be supportive towards them. Gerald feels the same as Eric and Sheila, but he cannot afford to agree with them if he wishes to get back in favour with their parents, as this is the only way that he can hope to re-start the engagement with Sheila. This is shown in his systematic destruction of the Inspector's story, in which he is constantly prompting Birling to cast doubt on each part of the tale. In the plot of 'An Inspector Calls', the characters respond to the message that they are given by the Inspector in different ways. Sheila and Eric fully understand the idea that, as the Inspector says, "We all live as one body. We don't live alone'. Birling and Mrs Birling stubbornly cling to their beliefs and Gerald also comes out on their side, although this could be a result of him trying to impress the elder Birlings. The Inspector gives a short speech before he leaves and tries to make them think of what they had done to this poor innocent girl, how each and every one of them drove her to her own suicide. Priestley uses this speech and the play to display his and many others of the times political views in a form of his own political message. The message from Priestley is that the individual and the community have responsibilities. That we can all pursue our own self-interests but we have to think about others as well as ourselves. 'We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. Good night.' Kate Andrews ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE J.B. Priestley section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE J.B. Priestley essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    How does the character Sheila Birlings change in the play An Inspector Calls?

    5 star(s)

    Furthermore, she appears to look up to her fianc� and look forward to her wedding. She has a normal pleasant relationship with her parents and a normal bantering relationship with her brother, ("Don't be an ass, Eric."). By the end of the play Sheila recognizes that she and every member

  2. Discussthe role of the Inspector in the play 'An Inspector Calls'

    However, Sheila shows her views strongly, and forcefully disagrees with her father, proclaiming, "It doesn't much matter." and then she continues to make a very significant speech. This could have actually been spoken by the Inspector, their views and opinions are so similar.

  1. An Inspector Calls is full of lies and deceit. Write fully about the way ...

    Mr Birling then goes onto an egotistical speech. This speech impresses upon the audience his views on society, and exposes him as bit of an idiot. He makes several mistakes when predicting the future: not only does he mock the possibility of war (which was to begin just two years later), but he also declares the Titanic, which

  2. Discuss how Priestley presents Mr. Birling's character to the audience in the opening of ...

    This is also not true because it did happen. He is a typical capitalist and he comments, 'I'm talking as a hard-headed, practical man of business. Priestley is satirizing Mr. Birling because he thinks that he is infallible even though most of comments are incorrect. He thinks he is always right and thinks his philosophy, 'every man for himself' is correct.

  1. How does Priestley present attitudes to the theme of morality in "An Inspector Calls"?

    Of course, Sheila is not the only younger Birling, and Eric takes a similar moral stance. Despite his arguably most condemnable involvement in Eva Smith's death, Eric is also much more acutely aware of moral and general principles than the older Birlings, although it is important to remember that the

  2. What do we learn about Mr Arthur Birling's Character and attitude towards life as ...

    The Inspector however is outside of the social system; this allows him to have these opinions. Arthur appears unwilling to take responsibility for not only Eva Smith and others like her but even his own children. We understand that he considers himself free from blame for Eva Smith's suicide when he says, "Still I can't accept any responsibility."

  1. "You and I aren't the same people who sat down together before dinner" Sheila ...

    As he discovers the revelations about Eric's theft of the money he becomes more and more desperate, and just before the Inspector's departure he says he will give "thousands� to keep the story quiet.

  2. An Inspector Calls. Explore the social and political views of the Birlings and the ...

    Birling is very pleased as this will mean he gains a lot of respect and he will be making a lot of money and progress in his business. Mr Birling wanted to have a superior social class amongst the other members of that certain his social class.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work