Essay-writing tips - continued

Marriage is based on social class

You could include some of the following points in your essay.

Gerald's reaction:

  • he lies to Sheila about where he was during the summer, “I was awfully busy at the works all that time”
  • he thinks Sheila is a prize
  • he is often arrogant, “You can drink to me”
  • he can be humble, “hope I can make you as happy as you deserve to be”
  • he makes a private moment (giving Sheila an engagement ring) a public event by doing it in front of her family
  • he buys Sheila the ring she had admired – showing that he cares for her
  • he sometimes behaves appropriately in order to please Sheila and impress Mr and Mrs Birling
  • he often manipulates the situation to make himself look good

Sheila's reaction:

  • she is unhappy with Gerald's absence during the summer
  • she is pleased with her engagement ring and seems to be in love with Gerald

Mr and Mrs Birling’s reaction:

  • Mr Birling is more concerned about the businesses relationship between the Birling and Croft companies rather than whether Gerald loves his daughter
  • his interest in his daughter’s marriage could be because he sees it as a way to climb the social ladder
  • Mrs Birling tells Sheila that she must get used to her husband being absent on business, indicating that marriage to her is a business arrangement

Relationships elsewhere in the play:

  • Mr and Mrs Birling appear to have a marriage of convenience – their marriage has brought them either money or power and respect
  • Sheila and Gerald seem to be getting married as part of a business arrangement rather than out of love – they don’t appear to know each other very well
  • during her own confession Sheila is angry with Gerald when she feels he is judging her, revealing a lack of understanding between them
  • Sheila wants to stay and hear Gerald’s confession – she is suspicious of his behaviour during his absence over the summer
  • Gerald admits to lying to Sheila and is honest about seeing Eva
  • Sheila respects his honesty, but is hurt by the revelation of his relationship with Eva
  • Sheila realises that she and Gerald do not know each other well enough and gives him back the engagement ring
  • Sheila has become a more mature and changed character, aware of her responsibilities to others and to herself, however Gerald is still more concerned about re-establishing a socially advantageous alliance – Sheila defers a decision about their engagement/marriage