‘ Mr Birling tries to influence the Inspector by telling about his success and his strong links with the police Force. ‘How do you get on with our Chief Constable… perhaps I ought to warn you that he’s an old friend of mine, and that I see him fairly regularly. ‘ Still, in spite of this the Inspector is still not at all fazed by Mr Birling. When the Inspector tells Mr Birling of the suicide of Eva Smith he feels sorry for the girl but refuses to admit any responsibility. ‘Yes. Horrible Business, but I don’t understand why you should come here, Inspector.
‘ The whole way through the questioning, Mr Birling stands by his actions, until eventually his own children lose respect for him. For example, while Gerald is supporting Mr Birling’s actions (perhaps trying to gain respect seeing as he has just got engaged to his daughter) Eric is annoyed with what his father has done. ‘You could have kept her on instead of throwing her out. I call it tough luck. ‘ This is where Priestly’s views come in. Birling doesn’t learn from his mistakes and he talks confidently of the future, unaware of the disasters that were so soon to strike the world.
These assurances emphasize emphasise the blind complacency of Birling, and Britain as a whole, and like Priestly said ‘If Britain will not learn by its mistakes it will not be respected. ‘ Married to Mr Birling is Mrs Sybil Birling, who is probably the proudest member of the Birling family, and although the financial success of the Birling family probably has very little to do with her, her excessive amount of pride undeniably tells her otherwise. Throughout the whole of the Inspectors questioning, Mrs Burling is extremely rude and never once showed any guilt or remorse for what she did.
‘In the circumstances I think I was justified. ‘ Even after Sheila’s warnings about Eric, Mrs Birling still acted completely ignorant and continued to verbally bash her own son without even realising it. ‘I blame the young man who was the father of the child she was going to have… he should be made an example of. ‘ When the Inspector asks Mrs Birling why she did not help Eva Smith when she appealed to the Brumley Woman’s Charity Organisation, she admitted being biased towards Eva Smith, mainly due to the use of Mrs Birling’s name.
She believed this to be ‘an obvious piece of gross impertinence,’ and it is one of the reasons why Mrs Brumley used her influence to have the claim refused. This is where it links to Priestly’s views, because he believed that wealthy woman that were members of charity groups did not do it to help people or with any intention of giving any money, but to clear their own consciences. Mrs Birling’s advice was to ‘go and find the father’ for she believed he should take responsibility for his actions and should be publicly humiliated; Mrs Birling is therefore crucifying her own son.
However, when she does eventually realise, she deliberately contradicts herself by first blaming Eric and then supporting him. Nevertheless, when she didn’t know who the father was she was unbiased, so it is her opinion at that time that matters. Sheila is Mrs Birling’s daughter, and at the beginning of the play the Birling family is modestly celebrating her engagement to Gerald Croft, but the Inspector interrupts that. However, Sheila’s deadly sin is envy, and it is this that makes her get Eva Smith fired. Sheila visits the Milwards Store in Brumley to try on a dress, which unfortunately doesn’t suit her at all.
However, when Eva Smith holds the dress up against herself, it looks beautiful, which Sheila is not very happy about. She then uses her power and authority in the Milwards Store to have Eva Smith fired. When the Inspector questions Sheila about the incident she sees what she did was wrong and says ‘I know I’m to blame – and I’m desperately sorry. ‘ It is here that Priestly’s views become clear, because Priestly believed that young people are more impressionable than older people, and it is obvious that both Sheila and Eric are effected by what the Inspector has to say in a much more positive way that either Mr or Mrs Birling.
Eventually, however, Sheila emulates Priestly’s views as well as the Inspector, and for a short time she seems to take on his role in the play. ‘We’ve no excuse now for putting on airs and that if we’ve any sense we won’t try. Father threw this girl out because she asked for decent wages. I went and pushed her farther out… just because I was angry and she was pretty, and Gerald set her up as his mistress. ‘ And then when it came to Mrs Birling’s turn Sheila fore-saw the future and tried to warn her mother – although it didn’t work very well.
Sheila (and Eric) is the only members of the Birling family who apparently learn from their mistakes. After the Inspector leaves, and it becomes known that the Inspector isn’t wasn’t who he said he was, the other Birling family members seem to think that it doesn’t matter and they can just forget about it, and it is only Sheila, and Eric to a certain extent, that tell the others that they should not forget what they have learnt and although Eric began to understand socialism, I don’t think it was to the same degree as Sheila. Therefore, to conclude, I think that the characters in the play emulate Priestly’s views in a great many ways.
With Sheila and Eric disagreeing and arguing with their parents they show that young people are more impressionable than older people, as Priestly said ‘ the old are too rigid in their attitudes to learn any lessons: hope for the future lies with the young. ‘ The way Mr Birling spoke so confidently that the Titanic would not sink and there would not be a war shows that ignorance is most certainly not a virtue. Priestly wrote the play with the hope that it would give the audiences more morality and responsibility. He wanted his play to say something about people.
He wanted his audiences to have to look at human beings through the author’s eyes, free of conventional attitudes or comfortable illusions, in the hope that this fresh view may stimulate questions that shake our complacency about ourselves. The people who learn the most from their experience are Sheila and Eric, which again shows that young people are indeed more impressionable than older people.