How does Priestly present Shelia Birling?
In the play “An Inspector Calls” by J.B.Priestly, Shelia Birling is presented as being honest, perceptive and open to Socialist ideas. Her presentation changes as the play progresses and she changes from naïve innocence to a more mature and pro-socialist woman with a deep understanding of her capitalistic society’s flaws.
At the start of the play, Shelia is portrayed as being naïve and oblivious to the struggles of the working class, but she shows remorse when her own guilt is exposed. The stage directions tell us that she is “very pleased with life” and is young, attractive and has just become engaged. However, she does not know about the struggles of the working class and soon expresses horror at her father's treatment of Eva Smith. Although she has probably never before considered the impact of her decisions on the working class, she shows compassion immediately she hears of Eva Smith’s death. She first exclaims “How horrible!” and proceeds to tell her father "But these girls aren't cheap labour - they're people." However, when the Inspector reveals Shelia’s role in causing the chain of events that lead to Eva Smith’s suicide, Shelia is horrified by her own part in Eva's story and is moved to tears. She feels full of guilt for her jealous actions and blames herself as “really responsible." Shelia acknowledges her blame and admits to her jealousy actions, marking her as more progressive and open-minded than the older generation consisting of her parents. Shelia is starting to change and becomes increasingly sympathetic and pro-socialist as the play progresses.