“An Inspector Calls” by JB Priestly Differences & Comparisons between Mr B. and Sheila Arthur Burling is the main man in the Burling family, and seems to control it, i.e. whatever he says – goes! The play is set in an imaginary town called Brumley, somewhere in the North of England.
Mr. Burling has a selfish attitude towards life, and also an attitude to only care for himself and family, and basically forget everybody else, in fact, this is exactly what he tells a speech on at the celebration of Sheila’s and Gerald’s engagement, “… a man has to look after himself – and his family too, of course…” which gives the impression of the selfishness, and also greed. Another example of this is when he tells a speech about how it is the best day of his life, “Gerald, I’m going to tell you frankly, without any pretenses, that your engagement with Sheila means a lot to me. She’ll make you happy, and I’m sure you’ll make her happy.
Your just the type of son-in-law I wanted…” makes people think whether he wants them to get married for themselves, or for him, and whether it means a lot to him sentimentally, or a lot to him in the business world. Burling’s first priority is to make money, “It’s my duty to keep labour cost down” and is also a social climber, and Sheila is engaged to the son of his “friendly” rival, which is why it could mean a lot to him in the business world because Gerald’s father is in a higher class than the Burling family. We can see that he is a man that tries to “make everything better” by using his money, “Look inspector, I’d give thousands…”.
I think this may be a “domineering” attitude, because he wants to dominate people, and do all he can to do it, which reflects on how he treats his employee’s. In his factory, there is certain employees which ask for a pay rise, but Burling refuses to pay more than “the going rate”. Burling can afford the pay rise, but returns by sacking one member of the “strike” pack, Eva/Daisy Smith. After this, Burling was blamed for starting the “domino” effect of Eva/Daisy’s suicide, but refuses to accept the blame.
Appearance plays a big part of Burling as well. How he looks is very important to him indeed in the respect that he always has to look “posh” and always dresses cleanly and smart. I think he does this not because he always want to be clean and smart, but to keep a good reputation with other high class people, and not to make them think that he is any lower than themselves. When the inspector asks questions to/about his family, he tries to protect his reputation by acting the innocent to the questions, even though we know, that he knows the answers to the questions, but wont tell them, to protect his reputation hard to explain!!.
Burling cannot see the consequences of neither his, nor his family’s actions. We know this because Burling makes comments which seem ridiculous to us now, in the ’90’s and the year 2000. Things like the Titanic being unsinkable and that European nor World war would never happen. According to Burling, war will never happen because in his eyes, it would affect business, but Burling does not stop to think that people may care more about things other than business, which is why he cannot see the consequences of his own actions and is also another example of the selfishness within him.
Burling hates stealing. When Eric Burling’s son steals Â£50 from Burliness office, he cares about nothing more than that he stole from him, and the amount he stole because Â£50 was quite a bit of money in 1912, and Burling wasn’t really concerned why Eric stole the money. Burling then exclaims, “You dammed fool – why didn’t you come to me when you found yourself in this mess?”.
Eric’s reply indicates that Mr. Burling was never close to his son,
“Because you’re not the kind of chap a man could turn to when he’s in trouble”.
Such a response indicates that things aren’t going to improve much after the play ends, and also indicates that there may be a bad family relationship.
Sheila is Mr. Burling and Mrs. Burling’s daughter, and is engaged to Gerald, Burling’s rival. Sheila has a totally different attitude to Burling, and we see this emphasized as the play progresses. She is very happy with life at the beginning of the play, young, and attractive. Although her happiness is about to be destroyed, as in her faith in her family. Her response to the tragedy is one of the few encouraging things, which I think, came out of the play. She is genuinely upset with the death of Eva/Daisy, and learns from her actions, unlike Burling. Not only she admits her faults and it seems as though see takes too much guilt on her shoulders, but seems keen and anxious to change her behavior in the future, “I’ll never do it again” she exclaims.
I think Sheila is aware of the mystery surrounding the inspector, yet realizes there is no point in hiding the facts from him, which is also a totally different attitude to Burling, because Burling seems to think he can hide the facts, and it will be okay, but Sheila, unlike Burling is not bothered about impairing her reputation, she is only bothered about the suicide.
Sheila is amazed that her parents have not learned anything from the episode, and thinks that even though the inspector may be a hoax, I think she is convinced that her parents behaved in an entirely unsuitable manner, the way they were hiding facts, etc. Eric agrees with her, and is like Sheila in many ways. For example, Eric is also amazed that their parents have not learned anything in the episode.
Sheila’s family have tried to block knowledge of everything that is unpleasant in life, but Sheila respects the truth and her parents don’t know that she has more knowledge of unpleasant things that happen, and sometimes even more than her parents, e.g., Eric’s Drinking. At the start of the play, Sheila is selfish, moody and has a bad temper, which she may get from her father. So at the beginning, Sheila is rather like her father, but she cannot see this. One day, her bad temper goes too far because Mrs. Burling says her dress does not suit her, and Sheila unleashes her anger on Eva/Daisy, resulting her getting sacked from the fashion store. I think she regrets this later on, when she changes, and sees how ill tempered and selfish she was, but makes no attempt to do anything about it.
Sheila does realize, in the end, the harm she has caused, and still wonders why her parents cannot see what they have done. Although the inspector does turn out to be a hoax, her parents seem to carry on as normal, especially Arthur, because he is just happy that the scandal will not get out, thus Arthur loosing his Knighthood, but, Eric and Sheila will probably never be the same again, as they have learned what they have done.
There are a couple of comparisons between these two people, e.g., Arthur being selfish, and Sheila being selfish at the beginning of the story but overall, these are two very different people, the way they turn out in the end, and even the beginning when they are a little like each other.
I did enjoy this book, although I think there should tell more about what the inspector actually is, instead of leaving it in suspense, but it cant really be suspense because it doesn’t ever tell you what he is, because it is the end of the story, and suspense is where you really want to know what it is, but it will tell you in the end. I think suspense at the end of a story is not good, because it puts a bad ending for the story, because you really want to know the end, or something.