J. B. Priestley’s “An Inspector Calls” was written in 1945 though it was set during 1912. Priestley was a socialist writer who believed in everyone having responsibility for everyone else. He set the play in 1912 because in that particular period, society was set into classes that were extremely noticeable. The higher class contained rich people; people with high status. The lower class was the complete opposite; some were extremely poor and only a fraction of them were able to go on to higher education for which they had to pay, but this was rare.
The play was set in 1912 before the 1st world war. The main reason for J. B. Priestley’s play was to portray his concerns about the state of current society. There was a huge gap between the rich and the poor. The play was a tale of morality. The play is about a young girl called Eva Smith who committed suicide and a mysterious inspector who is out find out who drove her to her own tragic death. As the inspector questions a wealthy, capitalist family called the Birlings they find out that each one of them had a hand in driving her to suicide.
Priestley uses the characters to express his views about socialism and possibly about class divisions and how he is desperate to cancel the idea of this. At the beginning of the play the character of Sheila is said to be “Pleased with life and rather excited. ” This is because she has just got engaged to Gerald Croft – someone of money and high status; this would make her parents happy to know she is going to marry someone of an upper class. We have a hint that Gerald was up to something last summer – “except for last summer… ” But Sheila doesn’t seem to bother about what Gerald was up to.
Sheila’s mother reassures her as well, that he was just busy – “Now, Sheila, don’t tease him. When you’re married you’ll realize that men with important work to do sometimes have to spend nearly all their time and energy on their business. ” This also shows that Sheila is a playful character after her mother accuses her of teasing Gerald. From Sheila’s character at this point, we get the impression that she is happy with life and at the moment she is not worried about anything. Next Sheila gets her ring from Gerald. Intensely she focuses on her ring.
Sheila says she will never let the ring out of her sight. At this point, Sheila is distracted by her ring, not listening to a word her father is saying – “Are you listening? ” This tells us that immaterial objects are important to Sheila; the ring that she received symbolizes a high status. Shelia says – “Now I feel really engaged” this shows that the fact getting married isn’t really important to her but getting a material object is much more important because she can show it off to prove that she is getting married. Sheila, Eric and their mother leave the dining room hoping Gerald and Mr.
Birling would come along to the drawing room. After seeing no appearance Sheila is sent to ask why they didn’t come along to the drawing-room. When Sheila enters the tense room she is informed about the suicide of a young girl. Her initial reaction seems to be shock – “How horrible! ” Mr. Birling says to the inspector “… don’t tell me that’s because I discharged her from his employment nearly two years ago. ” Sheila suddenly questions her father – “Did you dad? ” This tells us that she is not the sort of person just to accept what other say; this gives us the hint that she is inquisitive.
Already a change from reaction to Gerald. We suddenly get the concept that Sheila is a shallow person. She ends up thinking of her own feelings – “I’ve been so happy tonight. I wish you hadn’t told me! ” This shows that she doesn’t want to know about such incident but she still pushes that feeling aside and what to know more about the incident. Her questions seem superficial – “Pretty? ” She doesn’t ask questions about the young girl’s family or character. The questions Sheila asks are irrelevant. Sheila’s position in the family is at the bottom.
We get hints that others in her family speak for her, (Sheila) – “You talk as if we were responsible-“(Birling) – “(cutting in) Just a minute, Sheila. Now inspector… ” This showing that Birling and Gerald are trying to protect Sheila but now Shelia is trying to stand up for herself. Birling refers to Sheila as “Child” this again is showing the position she as in the family. Sheila’s family are quite closed to make sure that any secrets are kept in the family. It shows that there is a strict peaking order Sheila as to follow (Speak unless you’re spoken to. )
Sheila’s opinion of Eva is much different to everyone else – “But these girls aren’t cheap labour- they’re people! ” This is telling us, unlike Sheila the rest of her family treat lower class citizens like labour workers helping them to get rich. They don’t see them as humans. Sheila’s point of view echoes Priestley’s view as we should treat others like humans not labour workers. Sheila asked the inspector what the girl looked like. The inspector asked Sheila to come over and he showed her a picture of Eva Smith; Sheila recognises the picture and suddenly run out with “Stifled and sob.
” This shows that Sheila hasn’t hidden anything from the inspector but her described expression shows that she feels guilty about something. At Milward (which is a shop) Sheila wasn’t feeling in the best mood. She picked out a hat that she thought suited her, but her mother and the assistant thought otherwise. Sheila refused to listen to other peoples’ opinion and tried it on anyway. The assistant suggests to show Sheila how the dress may look like. Eva puts on the dress and it suited her. Sheila became jealous as it looked better on Eva than it did on her.
Frustrated, Sheila took the dress and attempts to force it on her own head knowing it wouldn’t suit her. From the reflection in the mirror that Sheila was facing, Sheila thought that Eva Smith was laughing at her. At this point Sheila had enough, she stood up and stomped towards the door. Using her family power she tells the manager that Eva was very impertinent and that if they don’t fire Eva then Sheila will never go near the place and she will try and persuade her mother to close the account they have there. Initially, Sheila says she felt – “Rotten about it at the time…
” but she doesn’t take any action about it. This is because she got told that the young girl didn’t matter and that she was only a shop worker – “I’ve told my father- he didn’t seem to think it amount much… ” This shows that a lower class person means nothing to the Birling family and they don’t really need caring about. This make Sheila feel worse. Sheila seems to own to her part of the blame, she says – “Did it make much difference to her? ” – Sheila doesn’t run away from her problems and she is willing to take the blame -“So I’m really responsible?
” – This tells us that Sheila has a conscience and she knows right from wrong unlike the rest of her family that are willing to deny it. When Sheila tells the Inspector about the Milward incident we realise in the situation she was very spoilt and she was in a ‘temper. ‘ At that time Sheila was jealous of Eva Smith because she was really pretty but this is ironic as Eva would be jealous of Sheila’s luxurious lifestyle. Sheila admits that she was wrong and she is now ashamed and she has learned from her mistakes – “It’s the only time I’ve ever done anything like that, and I’ll never, never do it again to anybody.