The remains calm about the breaking up of her engagement, and this is something that would not have happened an hour earlier. During the time that Mrs Birling was telling her story, and the fact that she thought whoever was responsible should be sorely punished, Sheila and her, unconsciously change places. Sheila becomes the mother, and Mrs Birling, the child. Throughout Mrs Birling’s elucidation, Sheila is trying to stop her from saying something that she will later regret. Mrs Birling just will not listen to Sheila, and she is acting just as a child would – disobediently. Sheila is trying to protect her family.
She does not want others to get involved, although she knows that they will, but she also knows that her mother is making things a lot worse for everybody. This is the place in the play, where Sheila’s maturity is most obvious. Near the end of Act 2, they discover that the man who had got Eva Smith pregnant, was there own Eric. Obviously this affected Sheila, firstly because she knows that now every person in her family is partly responsible for someone’s death, and secondly, because she now knows, that that baby would have been her niece of her nephew. Sheila: Mother – I begged you and begged you to stop.
(Act 2, page 49) This was the last line of Act 2, and by this point, everyone knows that everyone in the family played a part in killing that girl, and there was no escaping it. By saying the above, Sheila was blaming her mother for part of the situation. Sheila is not trying to take away her guilt, and put it on her mother, but she needs her mother to understand that she has done wrong. After the Inspector has spoken to Eric, and heard his side of the story, Sheila is the one who tells Eric what his mother had done – she had turned her away. At this news, Eric is absolutely furious. Sheila is the grown-up in all of this.
She is the one who explains things, who helps people to understand the situation, and to say what has to be said. Inspector: And you can’t even say ‘I’m sorry, Eva Smith’. (Act 3, page 56) Sheila: That’s the worst of it. (Act 3, page 56) Here, this was the first time that I actually saw Sheila as a totally selfless person. She was not talking, or even thinking about herself. The worst part of all of it, was not that her engagement with Gerald had been called off, or that her evening had been spoilt, but the fact that she could not say that she was sorry, and for Sheila, this was a complete transformation from who she was in the beginning.
After the Inspector has left, the family continue to talk about it all. Mr and Mrs Birling are blaming Eric, and he is accepting that. However, Sheila seems to be the only one, who actually understands the predicament. Sheila: I behaved badly too. I know I did. I’m ashamed of it. But now you’re beginning to all over again to pretend that nothing much has happened. (Act 3, page 57) This reveals, that Sheila does have strong feelings for Eva Smith, who has died because of what her family has done. She regrets the mistakes that she has made, and she feels very guilty, but she believes that her parents are acting very irresponsibly.
As Sheila and Eric listen to what one another have to say, they become one mind, they both feel the same way, and their parents are a complete contrast to that. We also learn here just how intelligent Sheila is. She is the first person to pick up on the fact the Inspector may be a fake. Sheila: Is that when the Inspector came, just after Father had said that? (Act 3, page 58) She soon after this, says, Sheila: It doesn’t much matter now, of course. (Act 3, page 58) She then continues to make a very relevant speech.
Her views and opinions were very close to the Inspector’s, as I said earlier, and this is reflected in her speech. This shows that she was listening carefully to what he had been saying that evening, which shows him a lot of respect. Sheila: If all that’s come out of tonight is true, it doesn’t much matter who made us confess. (Act 3, page 59) This illustrates, that Sheila feels that everything her family had done, has still been done, whether the Inspector was real or not. She has now taken over the Inspector’s role, reminding each member of the family, of their role in contributing towards Eva Smith’s death.
Once Gerald has confirmed that the Inspector was a fake, Mr and Mrs Birling are so happy, while Eric and Sheila still strongly believe that they have all behaved in an entirely inappropriate manner. Birling copes with the situation through aggressiveness, unlike the calm and composed attitude of the younger generation. Sheila shows her annoyance and infuriation with the older generation, by saying, Sheila: Don’t let’s start dodging and pretending now. Between us we drove that girl to commit suicide. (Act 3, page 66)
This shows that Sheila knows that the girl’s death should be priority, and not trying to pass blame. Following this, Gerald then questions the fact that a girl actually committed suicide, by saying, Gerald: I say – there’s no more evidence we did than there was that that chap was a real Police Inspector. (Act 3, page 66) At first, the family members do not see how this could be possible, but as Gerald then explains how it could be true, they begin to listen to him, and start to understand his point. This shows Gerald’s awareness and intelligence at this point in the play.
The confirm his beliefs, Gerald then makes the phone call to the Infirmary, and finds out that no girl has died that night from swallowing disinfectant. People react in different ways to this news. Mr and Mrs Birling have learnt nothing throughout his whole experience, Mr Birling: the whole story’s just a lot of moonshine. (Act 3, page 70) Mrs Birling: In the morning they’ll be as amused as we are. (Act 3, page 71) They are still as they were in the beginning. However, Sheila has changed. Sheila: But you’re forgetting one thing I still can’t forget. Everything we said had happened really happened.
If it didn’t end tragically, then that’s lucky for us. But it might have done. (Act 3, page 70) Again, this shows maturity and intelligence. Mr Birling and Sheila, both think that the opposite generation is talking nonsense, but the audience know that Sheila is right. She has learnt from her experience – Mr Birling has not. The play ends, with Mr Birling taking a phone call, saying that a girl had just died in the infirmary, from swallowing some disinfectant. In summary, Sheila’s mature attitude was shown throughout the play, and her guilt and willingness to learn from her mistakes was also displayed.
She came through, as a caring and thoughtful character, and an intelligent and realistic girl. Sheila did put forward her feelings, but unfortunately, her parents would not listen. If the whole family had acted similarly to Sheila, then maybe the outcome would not have been so tragic. Word Count: 3, 491 Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE J. B. Priestley section.