I think Priestly uses Shelia to keep reminding the reader of Eva’s horrible death; also she is the one of the very few open characters, she is able to do this well as she expresses her feelings. Like when she said “I felt rotten at the time but now I feel even worse”. Unlike her mother, when Shelia hears of her involvement in Eva’s death she is ready to admit to her wrongs and express her guilt freely “im actually responsible?” and doesn’t try to excuse her actions to get her out of trouble. This shows that her character is extremely remorseful, unlike her mother who is not sorry at all and wont even admit part blame, whereas on the other hand Shelia accepts full responsibility.
I think, as the inspector knew that Shelia, being a younger character, was most likely to admit blame and except the consequences of her actions. It was not only right for her to know that she was only partly to blame, which is why he encourages her to stay and listen to what he has to say so that she doesn’t feel entirely responsible. Shelia is very quick to realise the Inspectors motives, and tries to warn the other members of her family not to lie about their previous actions, as she knows that the inspector is going to get to the bottom of the situation and make them all realise their involvement in Eva’s death. She knows that he is going to expose everything and even tries to make the situation better by attempting to hurry up the questioning. She even tries to warn her mother about not immediately admitting her responsibilities.
Eric breaks down and tells Mrs Birling it was her fault that she killed Eva Smith and her baby. Sybil breaks down on her hands and knees and regrets what she did “(very distressed now) No- Eric-Please-I didn’t know-I didn’t understand” but she will still not take full responsibility for her death as she tells Eric she didn’t know. Shelia is frightened with Eric’s behaviour because he threatens Sybil. “(Frightened) Eric, don’t-don’t”.
In the play Shelia is shallow and is quite snobbish but then later in the play she comes to believe in equality. So this makes her feel sorry for Eva and guilty for what she has done. Sybil values family reputation this is why she will not believe the truth and then why she is ashamed of her family, but she feels ashamed of herself for what she has done. But even though she feels this she still doesn’t admit it “I’m sorry she should have come to such a horrible end. But I accept no blame at all. But she has changed from a strong character to a weaker character. She breaks down because the inspector blames her.
In the play the characteristics of Sheila and Sybil change towards the end of the play. At the start of the play Shelia is “excited”, “pleased with life” and “sympathetic”, but towards the end she is unhappy, upset and very guilty. And also believes in equality. Also at the start of the play Sybil is “snobbish” and conservative. But then when the Inspector blamed her at the end (he blamed her the most because she doesn’t repent) she broke down but she still refuses to admit blame.
Even after the departure of the Inspector, and when they all find out that the Inspector was a hoax, she is unable to accept her parent’s attitude and is both amazed and concerned that they haven’t learned anything from the whole incident. She is one of the few to realise that even though the Inspector is a hoax, the family have still behaved in an entirely unsuitable manner. All Mr Birling can say to the attitude of his daughter when he finds out that the Inspector is a hoax, is that the famous younger generation who know it all.
He amuses himself by thinking back to the faces of his children when they were exposed to the causes Eva’s death, adding, “they can’t even take a joke”. This shows how he continues to ignore the shameful things his family has done. Mrs Birling also refuses to learn of her responsibilities to others less fortunate than herself and is still unsympathetic, unlike Sheila, who displays exactly the opposite attitude to her mother. Her readiness to learn from the experience proves to be a great contrast to that of her mother.
The message conveyed to the readers is that the older generation in this time, are only ever interested in making money and about their position in society. Priestly shows his hatred of the behaviour and attitudes of the upper class by choosing Mrs Birling to represent such a character. Sheila on the other hand, is left to learn from the mistakes of the older generation and ensure that they are not repeated.
I think Priestly uses Sheila to keep reminding the reader of Eva’s horrible death. She is one of the very few open characters, and is able to do this well as she expresses her feelings, such as when she says Its the only time “Ive ever done anything like that”, and “Ill never do it again to anyone”. Priestly uses Sheila, to some degree, to show sensitivity towards a girl of the lower classes. Throughout the play, she is there to remind the readers of how her family treated and spoilt the life of a young girl, simply because she was of a lower class. Sheila is used as a voice throughout the play, which is obviously what Priestly intended. He clearly must have felt that it was important to convey the message of how poorly the lower class were treated by the upper class.
Through Shelia we have learnt to believe in equality, this makes the play hopeful because she then believes every one should be treated the same no matter what social class they come from. Through Sybil we learn that you should be honest, because in the end Sybil would not take blame and this didn’t get her anywhere as the Inspector blamed her most for the reason that she didn’t repent. I thought the play ‘An Inspector Calls’ was written well as Priestly maintained the interest of the audience throughout by progressive revelation, climaxes at the end of each act and spending time to reveal who is actually responsible. I think Priestly ended the play with a good ending; he ended it with something for the audience to think about. It will make them look back to look for clues that the inspector is not at all real.