Conflict Between Characters In J B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls

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An Inspector Calls “An Inspector Calls” is a powerful piece of drama by J B Priestley in which there are difficulties between characters. Sheila Birling and Gerald Croft experience conflict in their relationship. The play, which is set in 1912 on the night of the couple’s engagement, focuses on a prosperous family who consider themselves to be “respectable” and “well-behaved”. However, when the mysterious Inspector Goole turns up on their doorstep, they soon find that each of them has a dark secret connecting them to the suicide of a young woman. Herein, I will explore how Priestley portrays difficulties in Sheila and Gerald’s relationship though characterisation, key incidents, dialogue and symbolism. At the start of the play, Sheila and Gerald…show more content…
Gerald comes from a powerful, well-respected family, and his father is Sir George Croft, a rich business owner. Sheila and Gerald have a very close and romantic relationship at this point. They are encouraged by Arthur Birling, Sheila’s capital-driven father, who says that Gerald is “just the kind of son-in-law [he] always wanted”. Sheila and Gerald take one another’s happiness very seriously. One of Gerald’s early lines is: “I drink to you – and hope I can make you as happy as you deserve to be.” Gerald’s tone here is warm and affectionate; it seems that he wants the very best for Sheila. It is unthinkable, at this stage, that he would ever do anything to hurt or betray her. Similarly, Sheila jokes about going shopping for “[Gerald’s] benefit”. Sheila is naïve, quite immature for her age, and impressionable. She desperately wants to please her husband-to-be. Gerald is definitely the dominant one at this stage and seems to share some of the capitalist ideals of Mr Birling. Notably, Gerald chose and bought the engagement ring for Sheila, without her having any say about it. She just accepts that, and doesn’t question…show more content…
Sheila seems less naïve and more aware of herself. However, Gerald seems to resent Sheila’s new confidence and their relationship is directly affected by the action of the drama. Gerald says: “You’ve been put through it – and now you want to see somebody else put through it.” To which Sheila replies “bitterly”: “So that’s what you think I’m really like. I’m glad I realised it in time, Gerald.’” The two are really starting to turn against each other here and seem to see only the worst in one another. There is both anger and sadness in Sheila’s words at this point. Her bitterness towards him continues when she says: “Of course not. You were the wonderful Fairy Prince. You must have adored it, Gerald.” Here, I felt as if Sheila was openly mocking Gerald. Her hurt has turned to anger and the expression “wonderful Fairy Prince” shows that she recognises how Gerald must have enjoyed basking in Eva Smith’s gratitude and affection. Sheila feels betrayed and as she “hands him the ring” – a symbolic act of her rejection of their relationship – it seems as if there is no way forward for them. Sheila even goes so far as to say: “You and I aren’t the same people who sat down to dinner here.” Sheila is now in control of the relationship. She is the one asking all the questions, and Gerald asks for her permission to leave, come back, and asks if he may have a drink. She has the power to decide if the

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