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Miss Sheila Birling, a prominent character in Priestly’s play “An Inspector Calls”, undergoes many changes throughout the play. The audience and reader’s perspective towards her also alters. Sheila changes before our eyes from a little girl into a strong young woman. In the beginning, Sheila is described to us as being “in her early twenties” and “very pleased with life”. This gives us an impression that she is just a girl, who has not seen enough of the world yet and is very “young” in her thoughts. We see her as being very immature at first, addressing her parents as “Mummy and Daddy”.
She is clearly a “mummy’s girl” who follows her parents instructions and orders For example, she meekly follows her mother to the drawing-room and leaves the men – including her husband-to-be. Although she is engaged to Gerald Croft, Sheila places her husband-to-be on a pedestal, admiring him and calling h9im “darling”. She takes the engagement ring like a little girl would receive a new toy – “look, mummy! ” The way Sheila acts in the first part of the play makes her seem like someone who is soft, innocent and silly, or plain immature.
After the Inspector arrives, our opinion towards her changes. After she confesses to the Inspector, Sheila breaks down. She feels very sorry for all the pain she has caused Eva Smith. The Inspector makes her feel responsible for using her wealth, importance and influence to get a truly innocent girl sacked from her last steady job. Sheila sobs and cries, like a child. However, our opinion really changes when she confronts Gerald. Sheila laughs hysterically, at the end of Act One, when she says, “You fool. Of course he knows. And I hate to think what he knows that we don’t know yet.
” This behaviour is rather like that of a teenager throwing a tantrum, showing her growing realisation and maturity. When Gerald begins to confess, Sheila shows a rebellious streak. She refuses to be led away by her parents who want her to be protected. This is like what the average adolescent would do when they wish to cross new territory. Sheila begins to control herself a little more rationally during Gerald’s interrogation Gerald “falls off” the high placing he was originally on as Sheila calls him by name rather than by some playful nickname.