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Compare and contrast Sheila and Eric with Mr & Mrs Birling Paper

Essay Topic:

‘An Inspector Calls’ is a play about and inspector that teaches the Birling’s and Gerald Croft that the way they treat other people just because they are a lower class than them is not right. This play was written by J. B. Priestley. The play is set in a 1912 dinning room. Priestley does this to show the differences between capitalist and socialist, conservative and labour. Priestley was trying to show his 1945 audience how things had changed since 1912 and also how some things still need to change.

The head of the Birling household is Mr Birling. He is a pompous, self-employed, arrogant man that says he is going to get a knighthood. Also he follows the capitalist idea very strongly and even wants his own son Eric to pay money back. You can see his capitalist ideas when he says “these people will soon be asking for the earth” this shows he doesn’t like the working class asking for anything because if they get what they want they would become more like him and other middle classes.

Mr Birling started off the chain of events that leads to Eva Smith’s death in September 1910 when he fired her from the Birling factory because she went on strike to get more money. This shows him to be a capitalist, another thing that show him to be this is when he says “a man needs to look after himself” and “as if we were mixed up together… community and all that nonsense” this shows he follows the old ways of classes and thinks people should know ere they belong.

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When the Inspector questions him he reacts like the Inspector is doing something disgraceful and stays in denial “yes, well, we needn’t go into all that” and “still, I cant accept any responsibility” show his denial to the suicide and “I don’t like that tone” and “a quite unnecessary question” shows his feeling towards the inspector and in the fact the inspector is a lower class than him.

Mr Birling’s daughter, Sheila is a childish, playful and immature person at the start of the play, but towards the end of the play she matures, becomes more serious and takes responsibility for her own actions “so I’m really responsible” this shows how different she is from Mr Birling in the fact she treats people more like a society. When Sheila finds out about Eva Smiths death and sees the photo she runs off because she thought “it was all my fault” this shows she cares about lower classes unlike Mr Birling who doesn’t care about lower class’s well being.

Sheila contributes to Eva Smiths death by getting Eva fired from Milwards in 1911. she did this because when Sheila tried on a dress she liked, it looked terrible on her, Eva then held the dress up against herself and it looked good on her and this made her give off a little laugh which makes Sheila very angry so she spoke to the manager and got her fired “I had her turned out of a job” this shows she was like her father before the inspector came. Her reaction to being questioned by the inspector is that she is scared.

Also it made her feel upset, distraught, sympathetic and even makes her feel responsible. This is shown in the stage directions “miserable” and “distressed”. This just shows how much she changes from the inspectors visit. At the beginning of the play Mrs Birling is described as an upper class snob that believes herself to be better than everyone else. Mrs Birling, the wife of Mr Birling is also a capitalist and a strong believer in the different classes.

Mrs Birling’s reactions to the inspectors show is that she was defensive “and if I was, what business is it of yours? this shows she doesn’t like the inspector questioning her as he is a lower class than her. She was also rude “girls of that class.. ” showing she is snobby and just like Mr Birling. Unlike Sheila she doesn’t take responsibility for Eva’s death “I don’t think we need to discuss it” this helps to show us the differences between the younger and older generation of the family. Mrs Birling is the chairman of the women’s committee and this is how she plays a part of Eva Smiths death.

Eva who was pretending her name was Daisy go to the committee to try and get some money as she was pregnant, but she said her name was Mrs Birling and this annoyed the real Mrs Birling and used her power to have her request denied. Eric just like his sister accepts responsibility for his part in Eva Smiths death showing again that the younger generation is learning more than the older. Eric’s involvement in Eva’s death starts with how much he drinks, he is described as “squiffy” showing he drinks a lot and is an alcoholic.

While on one of his night drinking he meets Eva and gets her pregnant. This links to how Mrs Birling is involved. This helps Mrs b realise what’s going on around her as she normally ignores it “but I didn’t know it was you – I never dreamt” this shows how much the children are ignored and get up to things they shouldn’t. Eric also tried to give Eva some stolen money but she wouldn’t accept it as it was stolen. Eric shows his socialist values when he finds out Eva was pregnant with his child and now they were both dead, he starts to take responsibility for what he has done.

He also blames his parents for her death “you killed them both – damn you, damn you” speaking to Mrs B and condemning her as she denied helping Eva and his child. In the inspector’s final speech, he says “there are millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths” this is the inspector way of saying there are a lot of working class people and they have feelings too. He also says “we are responsible for each other” showing his support for socialism, this is when people look after each other as we are all the same, and how he doesn’t follow the class system.

Inspector Goole appears to have a power to predict the future “they will learn it in fire and blood and anguish” showing the inspector knowing that world war one was going to happen and saying the complete opposite of what Mr Birling said earlier on in the play before the inspector came in. At the end of the play, Sheila and Eric have changed the most, they became more socialist and believe that people are important and we should be all treated the same weather were rich or poor. They feel that they are just like Eva Smith as she is young as well and the only difference is she had less money and the way they were brought up.

This shows us that the younger generation are learning and that the future is going to change. Mr and Mrs Birling haven’t changed as they are to selfish and stubborn in there ways to change what they think is right. All they think about is money and even make sure there kids pay back all there money, like when Mr Birling says Eric has to pay every penny of the fifty pound he stole from his office. Because of the capitalist ways of thinking they believe they control the working class.

People now can learn from this because we still have some capitalist ways today where in some places men get paid more than women and how we still need to respect each other, still need to put people first and that people are more important than money. People need to be treated fairly and equally to make sure we live in harmony. J. B. Priestley wrote this play to try and get rid of the class system as he thought it was wrong and to try and get people to vote labour as they believe in socialism and treating people equally if they have more money or not.

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