An Inspector Calls: Sheila Birling


A-Level English (An Inspector Calls) Mind Map on An Inspector Calls: Sheila Birling, created by Rattan Bhorjee on 15/02/2015.
Rattan Bhorjee
Mind Map by Rattan Bhorjee, updated more than 1 year ago
Rattan Bhorjee
Created by Rattan Bhorjee about 9 years ago

Resource summary

An Inspector Calls: Sheila Birling
  1. Relationship with Gerald
    1. Sheila is engaged to marry Gerald Croft


      1. Even though she seems very playful at the opening, we know that she has had suspicions about Gerald when she mentions "last summer, when you never came near me". This suggests that she is not as naive and shallow as she first appears.
        1. Appears naïve at the beginning as she is delighted with the ring that Gerald bought her, however she later realises she doesn't know her future husband very well.
          1. Sheila is determined to learn the truth and stays to hear about Gerald's behaviour.
            1. It's interesting that she is not angry with him when she hears about the affair: she says that she respects his honesty. She is becoming more mature.
              1. She reject's Gerald's ring saying "it's too early" but also exclaims "I respect you more than I've ever done" when he reveals the truth about Eva Smith.
                1. Gerald chose and bought the engagement ring for Sheila, without her having any say about it, and she just accepts that, and doesn't question Gerald. She says 'Is this the one you wanted me to have?' which shows her willingness to be controlled.
                  1. Her excited reaction to Gerald’s engagement ring suggests she is comfortably settled in the economic and cultural traditions of her father.
                  2. Inspector's Interrogation & Eva Smith/Daisy renton
                    1. Although she has probably never in her life before considered the conditions of the workers, she shows her compassion immediately she hears of her father's treatment of Eva Smith: "But these girls aren't cheap labour - they're people". Already, she is starting to change.
                      1. She is horrified by her own part in Eva's story. She feels full of guilt for her jealous actions and blames herself as "really responsible."
                        1. She is very perceptive: she realises that Gerald knew Daisy Renton from his reaction, the moment the Inspector mentioned her name. At the end of Act 2, she is the first to realise Eric's part in the story. Significantly, she is the first to wonder who the Inspector really is, saying to him, 'wonderingly', "I don't understand about you." She warns the others in Act 2: "he's giving us the rope - so that we'll hang ourselves" and, near the end, is the first to consider whether the Inspector may not be real.
                          1. She is angry with her parents in Act 3 for trying to "pretend that nothing much has happened." Sheila says "It frightens me the way you talk:" she cannot understand how they cannot have learnt from the evening in the same way that she has. She is seeing her parents in a new, unfavourable light.
                            1. She quickly understands that the Inspector holds them responsible and exclaims "I'm trying to tell the truth".
                              1. ‘was she pretty?’ This is the first thing she says when she hears about Eva smiths death, whereas other people may have focused on more important things. It gives the impression that she cares a lot about peoples looks which indicates that if Eva wasn’t pretty, her death may have not been as significant. Moreover it has a hint of comparison, like Sheila was wondering if Eva was as pretty as her.
                                1. Confesses her selfish behaviour at 'Milwards' and says she will "never do it again". This is the beginning of the change in Sheila who, like her brother will learn from these terrible events.
                                2. appearance & Personality
                                  1. She is described as "A very pretty girl in her early twenties, very pleased with life and rather excited", which is precisely how she comes across in the first act of the play. In the second and third acts, following the realisation that she has played a part in Eva Smith's death, she matures and comes to realise the importance of The Inspector's message.
                                    1. At the end of the play, Sheila is much wiser. She can now judge her parents and Gerald from a new perspective, but the greatest change has been in herself: her social conscience has been awakened and she is aware of her responsibilities. The Sheila who had a girl dismissed from her job for a trivial reason has vanished forever.
                                      1. The audience can see her becoming more mature: "I'm not a child", as she faces up to the truth about Gerald understanding why Daisy liked Gerald so much. He was like a "fairy prince".
                                        1. At the beginning of the play she is quite playful: "You're squiffy", "(with mock aggressiveness) Go on, Gerald - just you object!". However she becomes more mature as her view of the world and her parents change.
                                          1. This character arguably develops the most in the play, going from a very naïve and playful character, to a more serious and engaged adult.
                                            1. Along with Eric, she is the embodiment of the younger generation of the era.
                                            2. Priestley's use of Sheila
                                              1. Priestley cleverly links the play with the seven deadly sins. As the majority of his audience was Christian at the time and the seven deadly sins were part of Christian teachings, they would find it easy to relate to the seven deadly sins. Each character is linked with one of the sins, Sheila’s sin is envy; she was jealous of Eva Smith and got her fired. The strong correlation towards the seven deadly sins clearly helps the broadly Christian audience of the time to understand that each of the characters did things that could happen in everyday life and that these things are wrong.
                                                1. Sheila and Eric are used to appeal to the younger generation. Their remorse is highlighted by Sheila saying “I behaved badly too. I know I did. I’m ashamed of it.” Even after they discover the Inspector’s deceit, Sheila and Eric feel terrible and try to force their parents to show more remorse also. This can be seen as Sheila says, “(passionately) you’re pretending as if everything’s just as it was before.” She clearly thinks things have changed and wants her parents to realise this too.
                                                  1. Priestley uses Sheila and Eric to represent the younger generations and their more liberal views. Sheila regularly locks horns with her highly conservative mother on her behaviour: "Sheila! Really the things you girls pick up these days!".
                                                    1. Sheila is given sense by Priestley via the Inspector as she is the one who realises her mother's interrogation will lead to the shock that Eric was the father of Daisy's child, asking "Mother don't you see", Mrs Birling evidently cannot but Sheila can. She realises the Inspector knows the truth already: "Of course he knows" she says to Gerald.
                                                      1. The audience understand that she has changed and has started to accept responsibility goes beyond the family. Like Eric, Priestley uses Sheila as a sign of hope that life in Britain can be fairer and more equal in the future.
                                                        1. Priestley uses Sheila to show that even though most wealthy people are snobbish and don't care about anybody but themselves, there are exceptions: Sheila is one.
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