Gerald’s engagement

John Boyton Priestley was born in Bradford, Yorkshire on the 13th September 1894. He served in the First World War; the events that happened influenced his writing a great deal. He narrowly missed death twice. In 1925 his wife died of cancer. He also opposed to the class system. The play “An Inspector Calls” is set in the Birling’s dining room in the spring of 1912. The evening celebration was for Sheila, Mr Birling’s daughter, and Gerald’s engagement.

During the night they talk about good times and joyful memories. Mr Birling, who is a successful factory owner frequently comments about his status in society, even whilst Gerald and the reader know that his wife Sybil, who is said to be “rather cold”, is his social superior. Mr Birling is very hopeful about the future. He says about how the Titanic is “unsinkable”, and it sinks quite awfully on it’s maiden voyage, and how he thinks that war would be an impossibility, and war breaks out in 1914, these are examples dramatic irony, as the reader knows what happens to the Titanic and the public knowing a war will be inevitable. This makes us think of Mr Birling as a fool. Inspector Goole, quite rudely interrupts the celebration dinner, even then Mr Birling still boasts about his ranking in society, “It’s probably something about a warrant, I’m still on the Bench, you know”, Inspector Goole dismisses the idea of Mr Birling’s thought. He commences interrogating the members of the dinner party.

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In this essay I will be describing Mr Birling and Sheila. Mr Birling is described as being “rather portentous”; he is a businessman, a “self-made man”. His first main concern is to make money. When Inspector Goole asks him about the reasons why he discharged Eva Smith or Daisy Renton, Birling gives a dialogue about he had been “giving these young men a little good advice”, then he explains about Eva Smith. At the end he says, “I refused, of course”, this was his reaction to her asking for a pay-rise. Goole asks why and Birling is very surprised.

Birling welcomes his daughter’s fianc�, even though Gerald’s mother is totally against the marriage, as she believes he is marrying underneath them socially. He refuses to accept any responsibility for Eva’s suicide and he gets unusually irritated by the Inspectors constant questioning of his family.

Sheila is a young, attractive young lady who has recently become engaged. She is “very pleased with life”. Sheila is the only person at the dinner table who seems genuinely upset by the news of Eva Smith. She is distraught when the Inspector explains the details of her suicide. She thinks that her father’s attitude and behaviour towards the matter is totally disgusting. She shows this by saying, “these people aren’t just cheap labour, they are people”. When Sheila is told about her part in the suicide, she accepts all responsibility, she truly feels really bad. She is the only character to do this. She is not ashamed to admit her faults and she is also anxious to change her behaviour, “it will never, never happen again”, she stresses this.

The group have all different reactions to Inspector Goole’s entrance and the suicide of Eva Smith. When Goole arrives Birling says, have a glass of port – or a little whisky?” he is very welcoming towards him. When the Inspector starts to tell the characters about the reason he is there Birling becomes angry and uptight. When Sheila comes in to ask when he is going to join his wife in the streets, she becomes very curious and interrupts with, “what’s this about streets?” When she notices Inspector Goole she immediately becomes very lady-like. The Inspector explains why he is there and she becomes very upset, she behaves as if she knew Eva Smith very well. Mr Birling still has the attitude of “I still can’t accept any responsibility”.

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