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In the start we see that the two children of Mr and Mrs Birling(Sheila and Eric), support their parents in the beginning. Their character was exactly mirrored their parents view. Gerald however, is remains the same and refuses to change his character and is the same as Mr and Mrs Birling. This is not so obvious in the beginning, but if u study the book really carefully, you would see that there are many quotes that suggest that Gerald Croft was always in support of Mr.
Birling, such as “Yes, exactly so” and so on. Mr Birling also goes on to tell Gerald and Eric “how a man should know how to look after himself”.
This shows Mr Birling lack of civic mindedness and how emphasises on how selfish he is. There are also other instances on how selfish he is. For example, when he only cares for his knighthood and his reputation when news gets round of his family causing Eva to commit suicide.
There is also no doubt that he is a unfeeling man when he shows no regret and remorse when he sacked Eva. Rather, he feels that he was not responsible for Eva Smith’s death.
Mrs. Birling had almost a 100 percent mirror of Mr. Birling except that she flexes her muscles as head of the charity organization to refuse help to Eva Smith. She felt that it was impertinent of Eva to call herself Mrs Birling. Furthermore, she was a liar (as her children soon found out) as she had refused to acknowledge the photo of Eva and was adamant about not having met her.
However after repeated questioning, she admitted that Eva had came to her for help before. She is also in the dark about Eric’s drinking habit and realizes that Sheila is not as pure as Mrs. Birling thought she was (“ran away with only a torn blouse…” “Shelia!”). This goes to show that Mrs Birling does not understand her children well enough to reveal their characters.
Sheila had been thought to be a simple-minded girl and who was always excited. However after tonight, she became a changed person. She became the opposite of her parents and her views contradict the views of her parents. She felt that she was solely responsible that Eva had committed suicide. However, she knew the “importance” of civic mindedness when she discovers that all of the Birlings and Gerald had each played a part to help in killing her. Sheila is also perceptive when she says that the inspector “he’s giving us the rope – so that we’ll hang ourselves”. This shows that she thinks deeply and with consideration. In this way, she becomes wiser at the end of the play and views things from a different angle.
Gerald is seen as a dynamic character, who switches his “face” again and again so that we view different angles of him. In the start, he agrees with everything Mr. Birling about civic mindedness and all that nonsense. Our impression of him at the start is a man who has a lack of civic mindedness and indifference. However, we see a change in his character when he comes clean on having a relationship with Eva. But there is just one flaw, when the Inspector leaves and he comes back, he tells them that there was no such Inspector. When it was confirmed with a phone call to the Colonel Roberts, he breathes a heavy sigh of relief. Does this show that he was hypocritical and only wanted to get off the hook?
For Eric, we can see that he contradicts with whatever his father says. Even at the end, he argues with his father daringly. It is not sure whether he had argued with on the basis of spiting him or to really show his true feelings on how his father had treated Eva. He also shows remorse when he says “we did her in all right”. He also stands strong on Sheila’s side on how it did not matter whether the Inspector was a fraud. What was important was that they had all did something wrong even if the girls were different.
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