Sheila Birling is portrayed at first, as being a snobby, spoilt little brat who takes after her mothers view on her social middle-upper class status. It isn’t until Inspector Goole asks her questions about her encounter with Eva Smith that her character shows a different, caring side. “I think that was mean to do. Perhaps I spoilt everything for her” This quotation shows Sheila’s remorse for reporting Eva to the manager of Millward’s (where Eva worked after being sacked at Birling’s factory) after she saw Eva laughing at her.
It shows her concern and perhaps guilt for her vain and selfish act. When Birling talks of sacking Eva Smith and her friends Sheila defends there side of the argument as ‘these girls aren’t cheap labour-they’re people too’. Apart from defending Eva because of getting her sacked, Sheila might be defending her because she feels some sort of resentment towards her parents for their overall pathetic attitude towards the lower classes and how they mistreat their feelings and needs just because of their class.
This of which, she might have begun to notice or already had but said nothing about it. Gerald Croft who is engaged to Sheila Birling, comes across as being rich, young and well-spoken. He keeps calm throughout Birling’s interrogation and seems uninvolved with Eva Smith (that being yet to be discovered). His seemingly “good” reputation in Act One keeps the same but as everyone so far seems involved in some way with Eva Smith, it isn’t that long until his involvement is discovered.
Eric the son of Mr and Mrs Birling, it portrayed as being the outcast of the family.
He is young, a drunk and goes to a public school where we assume he got his habit of drinking from. Eric shows himself to be particularly open-minded character who also defends Eva Smith along side Sheila. When Birling tells everyone that he could not have done anything for Eva to stop her from getting so low that she would commit suicide, Eric shows his social-conscience as ‘He could, He could have kept her on instead of throwing her out’. Inspector Goole is the most significant of all the characters as he brings out all the common questions asked by the audience.
He (in my opinion) is used to create the dramatic atmosphere and tension making the play a lot more watch-able. As the Inspector’s character becomes more apparent, we begin to see his accusatorial side. ‘In fact in a kind of way you might be said to have been jealous of her’ This quotation raises the drama and the chance of an argument as a reply, stirring up confrontations. When questioning the household, the inspector stays calm, collected and in control. Using his mild, relaxed authority, he comes across as being very contradictive.
This is imposed when the Inspector questions Birling but does not agree with his answers and points he makes: ‘No, sir. I can’t agree with you there’ Being polite the Inspector contradicts Birling (one of many times) as the Inspector can see two sides of the story while Birling cannot. As we can see, the Birling’s at the beginning of Act One present themselves as being a normal, rich, upper class family as tension is low and no pressure is being put on them but when the Inspector arrives everything turns around and characters show different sides to themselves.
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