I have chosen Sheila and Mr Birling for my two characters because they are completely different from each other and the events which take place in the play change them both in different ways. Mr Birling is presented as a strong willed individual who only thinks of himself and sometimes of those close to him. He is also made to sound unrealistic and stupid in what he says because he mentions about the Titanic not sinking and the prospect of war being merely a rumour and that it will never happen – but the audience who were viewing the play would have known that the Titanic had sunk and two world wars had taken place.
Sheila is presented as a pretty girl in her twenties and is said to have been pleased with life and excited. She is first seen as a happy young woman in her family dining room on the evening of her engagement. The changes these two characters undergo reflect their own personalities and characters but it also represents how people in a modern day society can be so self centred and not have any decent moral responsibility of thinking for other people and how one persons actions or thoughts for another can make a massive difference to how they think of themselves, and how it could affect their future life.
An Inspector Calls was written and performed in 1946 but was set in 1912, this means that the audience who were viewing the play were post war and they had been through two world wars and severe economic depression. The post war society would not want to repeat the mistakes of the past but to learn from them and move on. Arthur Birling was very full of himself and snobby before the Inspector arrived. He was presented as a hard headed business man who thought very highly of himself and did not like lower class people or to mix with them, a quote to support this is: ‘ The way some of these cranks talk and write now, you’d think everybody has to look after everybody else, as if we were all mixed up together like bees in a hive – community and all that nonsense’ Birling thinks he holds a lot of good advice,
‘Just let me finish Eric. You’ve a lot to learn yet. And I’m talking as a hard- headed business man. And I say there isn’t a chance of war. The world’s developing so fast that it’ll make war impossible. Why, a friend of mine went over this new liner last week – The Titanic – she sails next week – forty six thousand eight hundred tonnes – New York in five days – and every luxury – and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable. That’s what you’ve got to keep your eye on, facts like that – not a few German officers talking nonsense and a few scaremongers here making a fuss about nothing.’
But really he is ignoring the obvious and replacing the facts with what he wants to believe. Arthur Birling would appear to the audience as being full of himself and would seem to make predictions about the future – the unsinkable Titanic; the impossibility of war – this would have been believed by many in 1912 but would have been laughed at by audiences in 1945 because there was the irony of them knowing what was just about to happen to the Birlings’ perfect world.
When the inspector arrives Mr Birling is not at all happy about being accused for Eva Smith’s suicide and he keeps making excuses to avoid taking blame. Inspector: ‘A chain of events’ Mr Birling: ‘Oh well – put it like that, there’s something in what you say. Still, I can’t accept any responsibility. I f we were all responsible for everything that happened to everybody we’d had anything to do with, it would be very awkward wouldn’t it?’
Mr Birling stands accused of making a young girl (Eva Smith), who used to work for him, commit suicide. He is told that because he sacked her she was left with nothing and was resorted to ending her life. He refuses to accept responsibility. Inspector: ‘No. She wanted to end her life. She felt she couldn’t go on any longer.’ Mr Birling: ‘Well don’t tell me that’s because I discharged her from my employment nearly two years ago.’