Before the Inspector came on his disastrous voyage through the Birling family, Sheila was cheerful and in high spirits. She was cheerful because she was to get married to a young and handsome Gerald Croft. In the first part of the play Sheila was presented as an attention seeker and the overjoyed one in the family. Most of this joy came from Gerald, “I’ll drink to you, Gerald!” Compared to the other members of the family she is very outgoing and she says what she wants. For example, “Don’t be an ass Erick.” She, however, doesn’t respect her father Mr Birling and often doesn’t even listen to her father’s long and boring speeches, “I’m sorry daddy. Actually I was listening.” Sheila always thinks that her father doesn’t know what he is talking about. The audience know that the titanic has sunk however Mr Birling states that it is “unsinkable.” This makes Sheila’s distrust acceptable to the audience. This is known as dramatic irony.
When the unforgiving Inspector arrives at the Birling household Sheila turns into a completely different character. She is portrayed to be scared of the inspector however she still gives him respect. In a way she might think that he knows about her little mishap in Milwards. She also asks the Inspector a lot of questions about what Eva Smith looked like, “what did this girl look like.” This may be because she is trying to remember the girl in the shop she visited.
When Sheila sees what the rest of her family has done to Eva Smith, she becomes very angry and feels betrayed. She feels that she is to blame for the suicide of Eva Smith because she got her sacked from Milwards. When Sheila feels guilty about her mistakes, she learns from them. When she gets the chance to talk to the Inspector she agrees with what he says, this is a sign of respect. For example, when the inspector says that she was jealous of Eva, She says “yes I suppose so.” Sheila begins to realise that there is a huge social gap between the rich and the poor, socialism kicks in. Sheila knows that the Inspector has a strange power, “it’s queer, very queer.”
When the inspector finishes his interrogation and leaves Sheila is left in mixed emotions. She feels that she must learn from her mistakes to better her character. After this visit the audience can feel that Sheila will have a changed personality. She wont just prance about the house and be shielded from the “real world.” She also knows that the members of her family are not perfect. She know learns to look at people very closely as she can’t even trust her own family. After the Inspector had gone the family did try and unite however this was a failed try as too many secrets had been told. Sheila was not going to look at her family in the same light again as this was too big a deal, “your pretending everything is just as it was before.” Priestley is trying to emphasise that this was a life changing experience for the whole family.
When they found out that the Inspector was a fake, Sheila still had respect for him. Sheila figured out that the Inspector was a cunning man as he had forced out the secrets of the whole family without using any kind of intimidation. She uses the words, “he inspected us all right,” even after she knew that he wasn’t an Inspector. I believe that Sheila was the character that most changed during the play, she had know become a socialist. At first she is portrayed to be a sweet little girl that has been brought up in wonderful world. However now she knows what can happen to sweet little girls like Eva Smith. She now accepts the fact that her family has not seen the gap between the rich and the poor. I think Priestley was portraying Sheila to be the richer nation that has realised that to prevent another world war, the world must look after the poorer countries. Sheila is also scared that something similar to what happened to Eva may happen to her. In my opinion she is the character that has learned from this experience the most.