We see from here that Birling is being stubborn and is doing everything he can to stop Inspector Goole judging him. Birling is mainly concerned about his reputation and about what would happen to him should the public find out about this current situation. We also understand that Birling doesn’t appreciate that his workers need a decent salary in order to live comfortably; when Eva Smith came with a couple of other workers to ask for a higher wage, Birling “refused, of course”, shortly before sacking her. Gerald Croft is dishonest and is accused of taking advantage of those less fortunate than himself.
Gerald, who is of the aristocracy, certainly has a lot going for him. He is a single, handsome, wealthy man who has great potential. Many of these qualities lead him to be slightly conceited, think he is better than most people and take advantage of them. Gerald has not been honest with Sheila but thinks he can shake off the situation by saying, “All right. I knew her. Lets leave it at that”. Gerald took advantage of Eva Smith (or of Daisy Renton as he knew her). Since he admits that he “Didn’t feel about her as she felt about me” but did enjoy being her “Fairy prince” for a while.
Once the excitement wore off he dumped her and left her with nothing again. The play gives the impression that the younger generation are capable of redemption. The younger generation i. e. Eric and Sheila admit their wrongdoing almost at once. The Inspector interrogates them until they are ready to face their responsibilities. Eric recognises that he has done wrong. When he stole money he realised that “Its not the money that’s important” but instead Eva’s life was. No matter how much wrong he did, he does at least acknowledge it. He takes responsibility for it: “The fact remains, I did what I did.
” Sheila also recognises her wrongdoing. She is capable of acknowledging the feelings of other people and appreciates them. She admits that she used her social power to punish Eva Smith and admits to being “selfish” and “vindictive. Although she was jealous of Eva Smith, she was eager to redeem herself and learn from the consequences of her actions. She eventually says, “Between us we killed her” which shows she faces her responsibility more than any other character. The play gives off the impression that the older generation of people are incapable of redemption.
The older generation i. e. Birling, Mrs Birling and Gerald do not own up to their responsibilities and don’t recognise their wrongdoing. When Sheila finds out about the truth about Gerald she wasn’t pleased but Gerald says, “Everything is alright now”, as if expecting to be re-accepted. He doesn’t seem to have learnt anything from The Inspector and isn’t capable of redemption or facing up to his responsibilities. He, like the Birling parents, do not realise that things have changed and is keen to live his life as if nothing had happened.
Mrs Birling seems to know no remorse at all, “I did nothing I am ashamed of”. She doesn’t care for the working and lower classes and thinks them morally inferior. She is uncooperative with The Inspector and attempts to make him feel inferior to her husband by saying “My husband was Lord Mayor only two years ago”. She thinks The Inspector is “impertinent” for siding with Sheila when Sheila advised her mother not to “Build up walls” between herself the dead girl. When The Inspector told Mrs Birling that he agreed with Sheila, it made her look stupid.
The Inspector accuses her of lying when Mrs Birling says that she does not recognise the photo of Eva/Daisy. When she finally admits and tells her story, she still says she thought she was “doing her duty”. Mrs Birling doesn’t change her ways and doesn’t learn a thing from The Inspector. The Inspector interrogates Birling very firmly and precisely. Birling likes to be in control, but can’t find a way to overpower The Inspector. Birling is not used to being challenged but is now being attacked from all sides and is very irritated by it.
At one time, Birling tried to impress The Inspector, receiving no congratulations or high regard. Birling says he plays golf with the Chief Inspector and shows off his records in the public office. He proudly introduces his soon to be son-in-laws’ business – “Crofts Limited”. Despite all these attempts, The Inspector doesn’t seem to be impressed and continues to interrogate Birling. It seems that The Inspector doesn’t share Birlings middle-class values and Birling is irritated because of this.
Birling constantly attempts to escape The Inspectors’ interrogation by attempting to change the subject. Birling is obsessed with how things appear to people. He is afraid his reputation will be ruined because of The Inspector. Birling simply cannot understand The Inspectors’ wisdom and isn’t prepared to learn anything from him. Nothing has changed for him. He doesn’t seem capable of redemption because he is too stubborn. However it seems that Birling, just as he is about to face up to his guilt is prevented from doing so by the playwright who brings in Gerald to interrupt him.
The vilification of Birling at this point confirms Priestley’s left wing bias. The Inspectors superior knowledge of events simply means that he can see the situation of Eva Smith that Gerald and the Birling family cannot. As The Inspector holds a picture of Eva Smith and has details about her life he seems to be able to know what the reactions and the answers of the Birlings and Gerald will be. When Sheila says, “We hardly ever told anything he didn’t know” it seems to confirm that The Inspector is omniscient.
When The Inspector questions the Birling Family and Gerald, it gives the Left Wing message of the play to the audience that everybody should look after each other. The message of the play: “Everyone should look after everyone else” will nowadays seem complex due to the twenty-first century being more of a secular society as opposed to nineteen-forty-five when there were more religious ethics after the war. As ethics are different in today’s society, “responsibility for each other” seems like an overly simple theory to the vastly complex problem of the world.
The Inspector, who is the main character of this play, demonstrates the left wing message of J. B Priestley. As The Inspector is used to represent Priestley’s left-wing views and stereotypes the right-wing characters in the play, the play certainly seems to have a left wing bias.