An Inspector Calls - Characters overview

1

Read the extract and answer the following questions:

Inspector
I’d like some information, if you don't mind, Mr Birling. Two hours ago a young woman died in the infirmary. She'd been taken there this afternoon because she'd swallowed a lot of strong disinfectant. Burnt her inside out, of course.
Eric (involuntarily)
My God!
Inspector
Yes, she was in great agony. They did everything they could for her at the infirmary, but she died. Suicide, of course.
Birling (rather impatiently)
Yes, yes. Horrid business. But I don't understand why you should come here, Inspector -
Inspector (cutting through, massively)
I’ve been round to the room she had, and she'd left a letter there and a sort of diary. Like a lot of these young women who get into various kinds of trouble, she'd used more than one name. But her original name - her real name - was Eva Smith.
Birling (thoughtfully)
Eva Smith?
Inspector
Do you remember her, Mr Birling?
Birling (slowly)
No - I seem to remember hearing that name - Eva Smith - somewhere. But it doesn't convey anything to me. And I don't see where I come into this.
Act One

How does the Inspector convey how awful the death of Eva Smith was?

2

How is Mr Birling's arrogance shown in this extract?

3

What does Eric's involuntary outburst reveal about him?

4

Read the extract and answer the following questions:

Mrs Birling
You're looking tired, dear. I think you ought to go to bed - and forget about this absurd business. You'll feel better in the morning.
Sheila
Mother, I couldn't possibly go. Nothing could be worse for me. We've settled all that. I'm staying here until I know why that girl killed herself.
Mrs Birling
Nothing but morbid curiosity.
Sheila
No it isn't.
Mrs Birling
Please don't contradict me like that. And in any case I don't suppose for a moment that we can understand why the girl committed suicide. Girls of that class--
Sheila (urgently, cutting in)
Mother, don't - please don't. For your own sake, as well as ours, you mustn't--
Mrs Birling (annoyed)
Mustn't - what? Really, Sheila!
Sheila (slowly, carefully now)
You mustn't try to build up a kind of wall between us and that girl. If you do, then the Inspector will just break it down. And it'll be all the worse when he does.
Act Two

How does Sheila show that she is assertive and insightful in this extract?

5

What themes does Sybil Birling highlight in this extract?

6

How are the Inspector's potential supernatural powers hinted at here?

7

Read the following extract and answer the following questions:

Sheila
So nothing really happened. So there's nothing to be sorry for, nothing to learn. We can all go on behaving just as we did.
Mrs Birling
Well, why shouldn't we?
Sheila
I tell you - whoever that Inspector was, it was anything but a joke. You knew it then. You began to learn something. And now you've stopped. You're ready to go on in the same old way.
Birling (amused)
And you're not, eh?
Sheila
No, because I remember what he said, how he looked, and what he made me feel. Fire and blood and anguish. And it frightens me the way you talk, and I can't listen to any more of it.
Eric
And I agree with Sheila. It frightens me too.
Birling
Well, go to bed then, and don't stand there being hysterical.
Mrs Birling
They're over-tired. In the morning they'll be as amused as we are.
Gerald
Everything's all right now, Sheila. (Holds up the ring.) What about this ring?
Act Three

What does Priestley want the audience to think about Sybil Birling here?

8

'Gerald lets himself down at the end of the play.' How does this extract back up the statement?

9

How do Sheila and Eric show they are different to their parents in this extract?

10

How does Mr Birling show that he has not changed his outlook in the extract?