At the outset, Sheila is introduced as being a ‘pretty girl’ who is rather ‘pleased with life’ and excited to be engaged to Gerald. Based on these early description, Sheila comes across as a mummies girl (if you’ll excuse the term). She seems to have been shielded from the crippling truth that the outside world is not as easy and care free ad a child might think. Her stage directions alone will be enough to convince the most casual of readers that this is the case as she is described as acting ‘gaily’. However, following the arrival of the inspector, she does show a side of her that is compassionate and highly curious.Order now
When the first word of the inspector reaches her her first reaction is, ‘What business? Whats happening? ‘. This sort of behaviour reoccurs throughout the course of the play and holds a predominant role in the development of the various interrogations that take place. Once she is enlightened about the horrid goings on she shows that she does have sympathy for others. (rather distressed) ‘Oh- How horrible’. The inspector then proceeds to interrogate Sheial, but, as opposed to the other characters, he reuquires very little in the way of interrogation skills as from the offset, Sheila is more than willing to comply with any accusations made.
In fact, one would say that it is a relief for her to have the opportunity to get her wrong doings of her chest. Shee confesses to having Eva fired from her job in a clothes store, but, as opposed to Mr. Birlings reluctancy to go any deeper, Sheila seems more than happy to expose the whole truth. From her crippling jealousy of the beautiful Eva Smith to her snobbish and right wing upbringing. However, she does also show that despite her upbringing, sher is nothing like her parents.
This goes some way to conveying Preistley’s view that the younger generations can and generally do devolpe and improve on their parents attributes, and so this offers some hope for our society yet. This is a huge contrast to Mr. Birling who is unwilling to admit fault. This order is purposeful as it highlights the difference between their reactions. Much like enjambment in a poem can highlight a change of tone far more than a gradual decent from say, happiness to sadness. Eventually Sheila also shows that she had learnt her lesson when she admits that the women like Eva Smith, “aren’t cheap labour, they are people”.
Unfortunately, this is something that we will never see from any of the elders. The inspector then interrogates Mrs. Birling and Eric. Once again, this highlights the considerable difference between their reactions. Mrs. Birling is relatively old. She is a ‘cold’ person who comes from an aristocratic family and is generally snobbish towards the lower classes, “as if a girl of that sort would ever refuse money”. This also shows the divide between the social classes at the time which this play is set (1912) is huge where as the younger generation (those present in WW2, 1940-45, e.
g. Sheila and Eric) are more willing to break the divides and unite. Her role in Eva’s death is the proverbial nail in the coffin as she is rejected by a charity supposedly dedicated to helping unfortunate women such as herself. However, much like Mr. Birling, she refuses to accept the blame claiming that her actions were totally valid. “I accept no blame for it at all”. She then, however, takes this lack of respect for humanity to new levels, as she is remarkably quick to move the blame over to the father of Eva Smith/Daisy Renton’s unborn child.
Unbeknown to her is the fact that the father of the child is none other than her son, Eric. With this, the interrogation moves swiftly over to Eric However, when you compare this reaction with that of Eric the difference is astonishing, and shows clearly Priestley’s idea that the younger generation are more impressionable than the older, more hard headed ones. In fact, Priestley goes as far as blatantly saying that, “we are more impressionable on the younger ones”. I will provide more detail on the character whom makes this comment later in my essay.