Sheila is unlike any other character in the play – she is far more conscientious and more sensitive than any of the others, and she does not express her opinion as frequently or forcefully as her parents. When Sheila hears of the death of Eva Smith she is genuinely shocked by the news, and despite the fact that she does not know her, she is still upset. We can see this from what she says when she hears the news: “Oh – how horrible! “.
When the Inspector shows her a photograph of the girl she reacts much more dramatically than any of the others, which tells us that perhaps she had already realised that her behaviour towards the girl had been inappropriate and unnecessary, and that she was feeling guilty about it. Sheila is more moral than the other characters and this can be seen throughout her questioning, and she is immediately sorry for having had a part to play in the demise of Eva Smith.
When it is revealed that Sheila was the one who had Eva Smith made redundant she is immediately sorry and obviously upset that she did something like this. It’s the only time I’ve ever done anything like that, and I’ll never, never do it again to anybody”, from this we can see that she is genuinely sorry, and rather than trying to make excuses or remove any blame from her, she accepts her responsibility for the welfare of the girl, and makes a decision to change her behaviour in future, which is a very different reaction from any of the others. Sheila demonstrates that she is ashamed of her actions and she is the only character to tell the Inspector the truth from the beginning.
Another noticeable aspect of Sheila’s character is that she submits to the authority of the Inspector where no other character does, and she warns the others against trying to hide facts from him as she believes he already knows everything. In Act 2 Sheila encourages her mother to admit everything to the Inspector: “It means that we’ve no excuse now for putting on airs and that if we’ve any sense we wont try”, and “And now you’re pretending not to recognise [Eva Smith] from that photograph. I admit I don’t know why you should, but I know jolly well you did in fact recognise her, from the way you looked.
And if you’re not telling the truth, why should the Inspector apologise? And can’t you see, both of you, you’re making it worse? “. From these quotes we can see that Sheila is in favour of getting all the facts out in the open to avoid any surprises later, and she even goes so far as to scold her parents for ‘putting on airs’ in order to intimidate the Inspector. In the final act, once it has been discovered that the Inspector was not a real police Inspector, Sheila and Eric both reject the idea that everything is ok now that there will not be a public scandal.
Sheila points out that there are moral considerations which should be more important than superficial worries about status and public embarrassment. It is apparent throughout the play that Sheila demonstrates far more compassion for human life, and a lot less prejudice over class boundaries than her parents or Gerald, and she is more conscientious. The events of the play obviously affected her, and she has learned from the evening with the Inspector where the others have not about the way she should treat other people, especially those whom she might previously have considered ‘lower’ than herself.