Gender in "An Inspector Calls"

An Inspector Calls is set in England in 1912, prior to World War 1. At this time gender was very segregated and controversial. During the play, we see how each character is portrayed and how they develop, despite their gender. In this time period, women were viewed as subsidiary to men. This is presented through the role of Mr. Birling. He quotes “and I speak and a hard-headed business man.” Through this quote we can infer that he is trying to show his authority.

The quote is the further reiterated, “And I am talking as a hard- headed practical man of business.” The way the repetition is utilised, emphasized the dominance of men at this time. It suggests that women were incapable of being in charge as he used the word ‘man’ of business instead of optioning for person due to him not referencing to women.

Role of women in early 1900’s in Great Britain

During the early 1900’s in Great Britain, we are aware that the role of women was extremely controversial.

Each women had their own opinion on being discriminated l, although often, many upper class women accepted their role as being their husband’s ‘accessory’. They were usually part of a ‘picture-perfect’ image and were devoted to being stay at home mothers. An example of this would be Mrs Birling. However, numerous younger women were conscious of the role women played in society. For example Sheila Birling. At the beginning of the play, Sheila was conveyed as an immature, oblivious young women.

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The quote ‘ who has put the ring in admiringly,’ implies that she is too infatuated with the materialistic item. It is then repeated ‘(Noticing that Sheila is still admiring the ring)’. Once again the repetition of the quote implies that she is unable to engage in the conversation and be present in the room. Or she is too dumb, despite being in her 20s. Nevertheless, Sheila demonstrates independence, as a woman, when she goes against her father, Mr Birling. This portrays the progression of the role of women. Here, the author uses dramatic irony, as we know, as the reader, that the role of women exceeds expectations and they ply a key role in civilisation from 1945 (when the play was written and performed). The quote ‘but these girls aren’t cheap labour- they’re people,’ is said by Sheila when she rebels against her father. This indicates that women have equal rights and are not insignificant objects.

Gender roles and class division

Gender roles are also strongly influenced by class division. The life of a working class woman and an upperclass woman were very different. In addition, their impact in society was very divergent. Mrs Birling is an upper class woman who does not work and does not struggle, as she gets everything she wants. She is a very obedient person who is largely focused on image. She’s concerned about her social status and as to what others may think of her. She lacks her own identities as during the play she is only referred to as her first name, Sybil, once. This is signified in the quote “I’m Mrs Birling y’know.” We can infer from this that this is said in the ‘same easy time’ as shown in the stage directions. Being said is the ‘same easy tone’ conveys her confidence as she is married to Mr Birling. The word ‘y’know’ ledgers to her high social status. On he contrary, Mrs Birling occasionally demonstrated independence, commonly towards Mr Birling. In the play, Mr Birling asked Mrs Birling to compliment the cook on the food that was made for dinner. However, Mrs Birling replies with “(reproachfully) Arthur, you’re not supposed to say such things-“ In spite of Mrs Birling being a female and being discriminated against by society herself, she chooses to be oblivious to the fact and continues to remain persistent on class division and ensure that those who are below her, are aware of it.

Eva Smith

The character of Eva smith was a working class woman in 1912. She often faced many challenges due to her low social status. In addition, she is a female. Priestly presents Eva Smith as a very vulnerable character. We can infer that Gerald and Eric both took advantage of her. They were both highly attracted to Agee despite her being lower class. Gerald describes her as “young and pretty and warm – hearted.” From this description we can depict that Gerald was very interested in her appearance. This suggests that he used Eva and was inconsiderate of her emotions implying that women in 1912 were bought to be negligible. Eva was viewed as unimportant by many people. “But I think she only had herself to blame.” Mrs Birling is uninterested in Eva and overlooks her as a person until she learns that Eric was the father of Eva’s unborn child. Eva was also called ‘A girl of that sort.’ This portrays women as a ‘sort’ instead of individuals. I believe Priestly used this quote to create dramatic emotion upon the audience to enable them to sympathise to the way women lived with no rights in this time period.

Gerald Croft

Another example of a strong male role is Gerald Croft. In the play Gerald is to marry Sheila Birling (daughter of Mr Birling who owns ‘Birling and Co.’) form the text we can guess that s main factor in the reasons for Gerald and Sheila’s engagement is due to business between ‘Crofts Limited’ and ‘Birling and Co’. I’m his is referred to in this quote: “thought Crofts Limited are both older and bigger than Birling and Company- and now you’ve brought us together.” The quote suggests that Gerald does not have true feelings for Sheila. This signifies that Gerald is not respectful of Sheila and is not considerate towards female emotions. Priestly is emphasising he forehand for women. The was Gerald is discussing business with only Mr Birling displays the dominance men had.

How men are more dominant in the play

In conclusion, there are many examples of how men are more dominant and the lack of power women have throughout ‘An Inspector Calls’ A quote from Eric demonstrates this: “-well I was in that state when a chap easily turns nasty- and I threatened to make a row.” The leadership of men is conveyed on this quote as Eric is capable of getting Eva in trouble when he attempts to go against her will. It also indicated how useless women were, having now rights or authority – especially for the working class. Priestly uses language to create an affect on the reader. For example, colloquial language is utilised with the word ‘chap’ to present the location and time period of when the play was written.

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Gender in "An Inspector Calls". (2022, May 13). Retrieved from

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