Sheila Birling Essay

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An Inspector Calls is a play set in Spring 1912, just before the First World War, but written by J.B. Priestley just after the Second World War. In this time Britain had a capitalist ideal. Basically if you were well-off that was great, but the vast majority of people were poor and lived off tiny wages. Furthermore it was a sexist country, so women didn’t have the same rights as men. For example they were not permitted to vote until 1918, and even then they had to be over 30 until 1928 where the age was lowered to 21, equal to men. This is showed when Sheila and Sybil leave the room, so the men can talk business. Priestly may have written it at this time because he was trying to convey his socialistic views through the mouth of the Inspector, and the inclusion of dramatic irony referring to World War I – “a few German officers talking nonsense and a few scaremongers here making a fuss about nothing” and “these silly little war scares” – is proof that Priestley believes socialism is the best system. The Birlings are described through very detailed stage directions. For example, the Birlings are subtly described as materialistic – “[their house] is substantial and heavily comfortable, but not cosy and homelike.” This portrays them as people who care more about appearances than comfort. The lighting is “pink and intimate”; this shows that they are enjoying the night and it might also suggest that they have something to hide. In the stage directions at the beginning of the play, Priestley presents Sheila, as “a pretty girl in her early twenties, very pleased with life and rather excited”. Sheila doesn’t really contrast from the rest of the family at this stage, which would imply she is happy in this selfish, capitalist household. It is immediately apparent that Sheila and Gerald’s relationship is not based on love; it is more arranged and convenient. For example,

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