The reason he thinks there won’t be a war is because he thinks that the lower class people have no power to cause a commotion or to cause a problem. He also thinks that capitalism will keep the world economy stable. He fails to see that a stable world is built on social fairness, not money. Mr Birling detests socialists who advocate that people are responsible for each other and that everyone must be treated equally. He says, “A man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own…” he suggests that to get anywhere in life, people should care about themselves only and not care about others. In opposite to this, socialists say that life only goes on with people helping each other. This shows that Birling has very selfish motives.
Birling tries many times to act socially superior than the Inspector, to intimidate him and faze him, but the Inspector is not fazed by his ridiculous behaviour. Firstly, he introduces his son-in-law to be, who is the son of titled parents, but the Inspector is not affected by him being of even higher status, and tells Gerald to stay also, meaning he would also like him to be questioned, or listen to the other questions.
Birling tells the Inspector he doesn’t like his “tone” again, treating the Inspector lower than themselves, but again the Inspector remains cool, saying, “It’s my duty to ask questions.” Birling also tries to ask the Inspector how he gets along with the Chief constable, Colonel Roberts, then mentioning their friendship – suggesting he is a law abiding citizen who gets along with police men. However, the Inspector brushes this off and ignores him. Then Birling tries once more with the Inspector and tells him “I’m a public man”, again presenting himself as a dutiful, law abiding individual who could not possibly be a criminal, but the Inspector takes no notice of his snobbish behaviour and reminds him “Public men have duties as well as privileges.”
Birling believes that the working class people have no right to go on strike, they should be happy with what little they receive. He says it’s his duty to keep labour costs down and if they dislike it then they “Can go work somewhere else.” However, he and the Inspector both know that the working class cannot find a job that easily, and Birling goes on to say that all the workers soon came back to work as they needed the money.
He explains that a few workers had gone on strike and as a punishment he sacked the ringleader, one of whom was Eva Smith, to ensure that no one thinks about going on a strike again. Birling says that if the workers were not controlled, “They would soon be asking for the earth”, to which the Inspector replies, “Its better to ask for the earth than to take it.” This also shows that the Inspector is very sharp witted, quick and clever at his replies – he knows his job well. Birling obviously dislikes this, and this is why he repeatedly objects to the Inspector’s questions trying to get him to leave. He is very worried about protecting his family, but much more importantly, his reputation. Spoiling his reputation would mean there would be a public scandal resulting in him not receiving his knighthood.
When he finds out the Inspector was a hoax he goes back to being as he was before, acting as though nothing has happened, but he does admit that the Inspector gave him a scare. However, he says that the Inspector being false “Makes all the difference.” Birling does not care much about the feelings of his family – he only cares about their reputations. This is shown in many places throughout the play, but most clearly at the end when he forgets Gerald’s transgression of cheating on his daughter, and instead tells him, “You’ve argued this most cleverly and I’m most grateful.” He has no concern for his daughter’s feelings. He just wants Gerald as his son-in-law. He has not changed at all.
A reason for his not changing at could be that he is an older man who is very stuck in his way; he will not change, where as Sheila is younger and can change more easily. Birling thinks he’s a “Hardhearted businessman” who is very experienced and knows what he is talking about and will not change. Reality he is proud, selfish, and short-sighted and will not change.
At the beginning of the play, Sheila Birling is presented as a spoilt, childish and naï¿½ve character. She wants everything her own way and gets upset or angry when things are not to her liking. For example, she gets agitated simply when a dress does not suit her as much as it suited the other girl. Sheila is very excited at being engaged to a rich man who can provide her with a rich, materialistic life, and a high social status. However, she is more in love with being in love than being in love with Gerald. This is shown when she reacts over excitedly at receiving the engagement ring.
Another place where Sheila is portrayed as an innocent child is when Mr and Mrs Birling and Gerald all advice Sheila to leave the room so she doesn’t hear the wrong things and lose her innocence. However, she disagrees and prepares herself for the worst. Sheila is also a very delicate person and is affected very easily in comparison to her father. When she learns of Eva Smith’s suicide, she reacts very sensitively by saying, “Oh, how horrible” and she feels extremely sorry for the young girl. Also, when she finds out she could be responsible for her death, she runs from the room tearfully in distress.
Now, unlike Birling, she sees Eva Smith as someone like herself. She has learned that the working class are young individuals like herself who deserve to be treated as people rather than just cheap labour. Sheila is ashamed and humiliated after realizing what she has done. She admits that she had abused her power because she envied Eva Smith. Sheila realizes that it is no point hiding the facts from the Inspector as she tells Gerald, “Why you fool – he knows.
Of course he knows.” She also tries to warn her mother she can’t hide from the Inspector, as she tells her, “Mother, do stop before it’s too late.” She understands that they must all be honest with this Inspector, “It’s crazy. Stop it, please, Mother”, and she also says…”But we really must stop these silly pretences.” She also begins to side with the Inspector because she knows that ultimately, the Inspector will get the truth out of all of them. She helps the Inspector by telling the family he knows anyway. She has the most insight in the family, and she eventually begins to rebuke her family members by opposing them. For example, she says, “Mother, I think it was cruel and vile”, and also “If you’re not telling the truth, why should the Inspector apologise?”