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What Do The Audience Learn About Sheila Birling In Act 1?

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Introduction

What do the audience learn about Sheila Birling in Act 1? J.B Priestly first describes Sheila as a 'pretty girl in her early twenties, very pleased with life and rather excited'. She is of upper middle class, or 'new money'. Women in Edwardian times did very different things depending on what class they were in. Working class women worked in places such as shops, factories, mines and farms. Upper middle and upper class do not work at all. They will however, be seen doing charity work to look as if doing good for the town. Mostly their days are spent shopping and gossiping. Sheila is the only daughter of Mr Arthur Birling, who is a 'self-made' businessman. He runs 'Birling and Company' in Brumley. At the start of Act 1 the family are celebrating her engagement to Gerald Croft, who is an upper class businessman and part of a company called 'Croft's Limited', a company that rivals her fathers. The Birlings are delighted about Sheila and Gerald's engagement and Mr Birling says, "You're just the son in law I've always wanted". It becomes apparent they are happy for the wrong reasons. Arthur seems to be more interested in the money and his business then his daughter's happiness. As it goes along, it becomes increasingly obvious that Sheila is in charge of her relationship with Gerald. She says, possessively "I should jolly well think not, Gerald." ...read more.

Middle

This threat would have convinced the manager, because in Edwardian times employees could be sacked easily as there were no employment tribunals or appeals. Her next piece of speech is "It was an idea of my own - mother had been against it, and so was the assistant - but I insisted." This tells me that she can be quite manipulative and one particular part of the quote is 'mother had been against it.' This part of the quote stresses parental control as Sheila's mother, who is her husband's social superior, didn't approve and effectively dresses Sheila. When Sheila says "She was the right type for it, just as I was the wrong type" it tells me that she is very self-centred and if the spotlight is on someone else she gets upset and angry. On the other hand, she knows when she gets angry and says, "I was very rude to the both of them." Sheila recognises her emotions but sometimes can't control them. She gets jealous and says, " If she had been some plain, miserable little creature, I don't suppose I'd have done it." She is clearly jealous of Eva's looks and so she acts in this way. Selfishness also plays a part in Sheila's confession as she says, "I couldn't be sorry for her." This statement insinuates that she was too busy feeling sorry for herself and her dignity was almost gone. ...read more.

Conclusion

At the end of the scene all the lights are on her and the Inspector stands at the back of the stage looking mysterious. When the cameras "talked" to Annabelle Mullion, who plays Sheila Birling, she explained some things. She realised that Sheila has tried to forget about the situation until the Inspector arrives. She also believes it is Sheila's curiosity that brings her back to the stage. She is scared and worried so, to protect herself, she comes back accusingly. The Inspector starts to feel a bond with Sheila, because she is the first one to confess to what she has done and he feels endeared to her. They soon become allies and together they get the others to confess to their actions. To play the part Sheila used a special technique. She used this to portray the emotions well during the confession. First, she said, the actors, who were being the audience, pretended that they liked the character. By this, Sheila told the story as if she was telling a friend. However, when she got about halfway through, the audience turned on her. This would make her feel accused and a horrible person so she would start shifting the blame and trying to get out of it. While rehearsing the play, this worked well but when she was on the stage she had to imagine the audience was doing the same thing. Annabelle Mullion plays the character extremely well and it is easy to understand Sheila's character and personality. Rebecca Woods Year 10 Page 1 English Essay-Sheila ...read more.

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