We see and learn that Mr Birling is a selfish, arrogant and unsympathetic to the lower classes. Arthur Birling is also a man of many words, which unfortunately for him, work to no avail. At the beginning of the play Mr. Birling says, “The Titanic… unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable. ” Arthur Birling like many other industrialists of that time was blind to the consequences of his actions as well as events happening around him he was certain that there would be no war and that the Titanic was invincible and would never sink.
This of course, does not ring true in reality and it can be said that there is a parallel between his comment on the Titanic and the actual event of its sinking as the upper classes stood a much better chance of survival than the lower classes when it sank, as indeed was the case in society itself. Arthur Birling first and foremost priority is to make money and provide for his family as any man should wish to do so, in his case however it is at the expense of others, “It’s my duty to keep labour cost down'”.
Priestly, through Mr Birling portrays the arrogance and selfishness of the upper classes of Britain in that era and what makes this portrayal even worse is the fact that Mr Birling believed that he is right in what he did in reference to Eva Smiths demand for a pay rise. “I refused, of course” he is surprised why the inspector should want to know why he refused and it is as if he is blind to the needs and well being of others. Sheila is a direct contrast to Mr Birling’s character in the sense that she learns from her mistakes unlike Mr Birling and she regrets her actions in feels sorrow for Eva Smith.
At the beginning of the play she is “Very pleased with life” as she is young, has become engaged and has everything to live for, however her happiness is soon to be lost as is her faith in her parents. Once she learns of her involvement and contribution to the eventual demise of Eva Smith her attitude changes to that of sorrow, guilt and remorse. “You knew it was me all the time, didn’t you? “, Sheila is more forth coming and open about her deeds than any of the other characters and it is this honesty that puts her in direct contrast with, most principally, her father and mother.
She accepts her guilt without lies and her response to the tragedy is one of the positive aspects to emerge from the play. Through Sheila Priestly is representing the changes that will come about in society and the importance of the young generation “Your pretending everything is as it was before” at the end of the play, when the inspector has left and the family realises it was a hoax Sheila and Eric are the only ones who actually take the proceeding seriously and don’t understand the smugness of their parents.
She is unable to accept her parent’s attitude and is both amazed and concerned that they haven’t learned anything from their experience. Sheila’s language also represents that of her situation during her confession and after when she realises what the inspector is aiming to achieve. In the text version as well as the stage direction her language is very irregular, in the sense the text version it is signified by the constant use of punctuation.
In the stage direction her language is also very hesitant and she often pauses and rushes, showing she is nervous and sorry. Her language is riddled with hyphens “I would-… ” . Through this use of language and presentation we can see that she is truly sorry “She almost breaks down, but just controls herself”. After the confession her language and presentation becomes much more confident, “(Stormily) Oh shut up Eric”.
In the inspectors interrogation of Gerald she becomes more confident, pompous, and head strong as she is intrigued and wants to know what is going to be said. By using question marks and rhetorical questions her confidence is bolstered and the pace of the conversation is increased, “Was it after she left Milwards? When she changed her name… and began to lead a different sort of life? ” She bombards Gerald with a barrage of questions that she knows will not be answered but feels the need to ask anyway.