An Inspector Calls is a play that investigates the social injustice of society in England. Its author JB Priestly writes a story based on the society reigned by King Edward. In this historic period the British Empire was at its peak of world colonial power. Edwardian society, as the period was known as, was split into different class groups. You had upper class, middle class and lower class. JB Priestly rights about an Edwardian upper class family, called the Birlings and how their transgressions lead to the suicide of a poor lower class factory worker known as Eva Smith.
The story begins in the Birling household where the family are celebrating the engagement of Sheila Birling and Gerald Croft. The celebrations are interrupted as the inspector appears, bringing the news of the suicide of Eva Smith. His inquiries reveal each member of the Birling household involvement in the case and the once respectable Birling family are revealed to be rather pathetic and immoral. In reference to the essay question I shall now write about one member of the Birling family and how their character changes through out the play.
Sheila Birling is the daughter of Author and Sybil Birling. It is at her engagement party with Gerald Croft, where the inspector reveals the family’s involvement in the Eva Smith suicide case. In the story Priestly portrays her as a young beautiful lady with a rather selfish and arrogant nature. Using her compelling personality she is able to obtain anything in which she desires through her father. At the beginning of the inspector’s inquiries she seems somewhat curious about the reason for the inspector’s interference.
Of course at this time she is unaware of her contribution to the incident and sits in the room with a feeling of impartial responsibility to the suicide of Eva Smith. After the inspector explains what’s happened and how Eva Smith dies she shows an empathetic side of her personality, which might have surprised the audience watching the play. She shows her remorse by describing her feelings towards the injustice of the case.
The inspector interviews Author Birling first before moving on to Sheila. Author Birling insists for the inspector to leave his daughter out his inquiries, but the inspector points out to Mr Birling that he must speak to everybody in the house. The inspector unveils Sheila’s’ involvement by revealing her as the second link in a long chain of events leading to the death of Eva Smith. Edwardian upper class society was well renowned for their ability to exercise total power and control over lower class persons. Priestly shows a perfect example of this during the inspector’s questioning of Sheila. He reveals that after being sacked from Mr Birlings’ factory, Eva Smith found a knew line of work at a clothes shop where Sheila Birling was considered a valued customer.
Eva Smith was soon left unemployed after being sacked again. The reason was for being better looking than Sheila in a dress which had Miss Birling’s best interest at heart. Using her social position she was able to influence the managers at the clothes shop into dismissing Eva Smith. Sheila is devastated after hearing the effect of her selfish act. The inspector shows another side to Sheila Birlings’ character, her gentle side. Perhaps Sheila can be separated from the rest of the family as she is the only one, apart from Eric who is able to accept responsibility for her action, unlike her father who a coward at heart made excuses for his actions.:
Through the course of the play Sheila slowly changes from a spoilt little rich snob into a mature young lady. She begins to share the inspectors’ views on Edwardian society and brings about a few of her own views. The purpose of Priestly writing ‘An Inspector Calls’ was to get his views about Edwardian society across England. Using the inspector he criticizes The social order of Edwardian society. So any comment made by the inspector is a comment made by JB Priestly. Conclusion I have been able to successfully answer the essay question using Sheila Birling as my character to show how members of the Birling family changed. JB Priestly reveals the injustice that occurred in Edwardian society. He shows the audience that the upper class people of Edwardian society were consequently not the respectable upright citizens that their class positions would have implied.