An Inspector Calls: Discuss the importance of Sheila.

Essay by rinkydinkA, November 2003

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'An Inspector Calls' by J B Priestley was written in 1945, at the end of the Second World War. The play itself however, is set in 1912, the time before the First World War. Themes often used by Priestley in his plays are that of the effects of an individuals actions over time and that of individual and collective responsibilities for actions and the results of those actions. Both of these themes appear throughout and are used to great effect in 'An Inspector Calls'.

The play is set in the fictional northern industrial town of Brumley where the Birling family are enjoying an evening meal in celebration of the engagement of Mr and Mrs Birling's daughter, Sheila Birling, to Gerald Croft. Mr Birling is a businessman who has become rich making a lot of money in the business and is hoping for a knighthood. He is pompous, arrogant and self-centred.

Mrs Birling, his wife, is also self-centred. She is cold hearted and socially correct. Sheila Birling, at the beginning of the play is very happy with herself and is enjoying the attention she is getting. Her character changes dramatically during the play. Eric Birling is the son of Mr and Mrs Birling and he is a drunkard, immature and, like all the others, self-centred. His character also changes throughout the play but not as much as Sheila's. Gerald Croft is the son of Mr Croft, a rival businessman whose business is larger than Mr Birling's and who is socially superior to Birling and already has a knighthood. Gerald is content with his lot in life and is self assured and well mannered.

The cosy atmosphere around the dinner table is interrupted by the sudden arrival of a police inspector who makes the shock announcement of a suicide of...