Even before this extract we have some knowledge about Mrs Birling. We know that she holds the same views as her husband. We know that she won’t be sympathetic to Eva Smith. This act reveals a lot about Mrs Birling. As Mrs. Birling enters, she is immediately out of place. Whilst the rest of the characters are silent and thoughtful, Mrs. Birling is cheerful, arrogant, and blissfully ignorant. She is very arrogant and too sure of herself: “I’m Mrs Birling, y’know.
My husband has just explained why you’re here, and while we’ll be glad to tell you anything you want to know, I don’t think we can help you much. ” When Mrs Birling enters she pretends that she knows nothing about what has happened: “What’s the matter, Sheila? She is unwilling to accept any sort of responsibility: “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Sheila. ” Throughout the extract and indeed throughout the play, she tries to assert herself but she is never able to maintain her assertion: “You seem to have made a great impression on this child, Inspector.
” Mrs Birling is described as a ‘rather cold woman and her husband’s social superior. Her coldness and lack of conscience make her unsympathetic, while her keen awareness of the rules of polite behaviour makes her seem out of touch with what really matters. Her lack of understanding of how other people live is shown in her snobbish comments: “Girl of that class-” Her lack of understanding extends to her family. She doesn’t understand how awful Sheila feels. She even talks to Sheila as if Sheila is a child:
“You’re looking tired, dear. I think you ought to go to bed – and forget about this absurd business. You’ll feel better in the morning. ” She remains untouched by the Inspector’s questioning, and she refuses to see how her actions could have been responsible for Eva Smith’s death. In this extract, she has built up a wall between herself and Eva Smith. Her prejudice against the ‘lower classes’ is clearly revealed: “And in any case I don’t suppose for a moment that we can understand why the girl committed suicide.
Girls of that class-” She thinks that she is more important than the Inspector. She threatens the Inspector with her rank. This is a further example of her snobbery: “You know of course that my husband was Lord Mayor only two years ago and that he’s still a magistrate-” At the end of the extract she even rebukes Gerald: “I’m talking to the Inspector now, if you don’t mind. ” Priestley has made this scene dramatically effective because the audience is already aware of facts that Mrs Birling which Mrs Birling is oblivious of.
When she enters, multitudes of previously unknown truths have already been disclosed. From her entrance until the end of the act, we see a variety of feelings ranging from joy to unhappiness. There is a lot of suspense and an aura of tension. It seems as though Sheila is trying to stop her mother from saying too much to the Inspector. The audience is waiting for Mrs Birling’s downfall. Priestley uses a lot of exclamations and thus increases the effectiveness of the drama.