1.1 She is described as "about fifty, a rather cold
woman and he husband's social superior".
1.2 Many regard her as the least sympathetic character in the play.
1.3 Snobbish and blind to her own family's faults she refused to give help to Daisy
Renton, the final link in the "chain of events", which lead to the terrible tragic death.
1.4 Speaks in a very aristocratic manor showing she is a member of the bourgeoisie, she also does this to
she she is of higher class even than her husband, telling the servant: "I'll ring when we want coffee".
1.5 She is a snob, very aware of the differences between social classes. She is irritated when Mr
Birling makes the social gaffe of praising the cook in front of Gerald by saying "Arthur, you're not
meant to say such things." and later is very dismissive of Eva, saying "Girls of that class".
1.6 She judges people on face value and
2 Priestley's use of Mrs Birling
2.1 Priestley cleverly links the play with the seven deadly sins. As the majority of his audience was Christian at the time and the seven deadly sins were part of Christian teachings, they would
find it easy to relate to the seven deadly sins. Each character is linked with one of the sins. Mrs Birling represents wrath as she is angry at Eva Smith for using her name, in what she thinks is
a spiteful way. Mrs Birling’s sin is pride; if she hadn’t been so proud and felt so outraged when Eva used her name, she wouldn’t have contributed to her death. The strong correlation towards
the seven deadly sins clearly helps the Christian audience at the time to understand that each of the characters did things that could happen in everyday life and that these things are wrong.
2.2 Mrs Birling felt she had not done anything wrong and that she had done “no more than her duty”. This suggests that Priestley
is saying the direction that society is currently heading towards, will not be changed by the older members of society.
2.3 She sees the lower class as morally inferior – Priestley hated this kind of attitude and
believed that people with these attitudes had to change if society was going to improve.
2.4 Priestley demonstrates why people like Mrs Birling should't be in charge of charities as they make bias and wrong
decisions and lack any concern for others. Mrs Birling seems only to be in a charity to assert her social superiority.
2.5 Priestley represents Mrs Birling, as a very posh and high class woman. She, like her husband, can be very self-important, for example, when
the Inspector says, "You're not telling me the truth" and she replies, "I beg your pardon!" She seems horrified that somebody could speak
like that to a lady of her class. This is not only an example of how she is portrayed as self-important but also how class-conscious she is.
3 Social Standing within...
3.1 The Family
3.1.1 Although the early 20th Century was a very Patriarchal society, Mrs Bilring is still
"her husband's social superior": "Arthur, you’re not supposed to say such things".
3.1.2 Traditional views of woman as she tells Sheila to accept the fact that men must
talk about business... she goes out of the room so can "leave you men" as if women
cannot think. This also shows the deep gender boundaries in society at the time.
3.1.3 Treats Sheila like a small child, says "she ought to go to bed" and
doesn't know her son, Eric is an alcoholic saying "he's only a boy".
3.1.4 No bond with children
3.1.5 Acts as the social family guide by telling Sheila not to use the word "squiffy" as she
sees it as inappropriate. She also mentions to her husband not to talk about
business. She tells Sheila that she must be an understanding wife by accepting that
men "sometimes have to spend all their time and energy on their business."
3.2 Wider Society
3.2.1 She is a very prominent member as "chair" of of the local charity doing "a great deal of
useful work in helping deserving cases. However she lacks in both compassion and remorse.
3.2.2 Even though she is "her husbands social superior", in a male dominated society she is still expected to
know her place as a woman. She upholds this gender hierarchy by telling Sheila to "leave the men".
3.2.3 She exploits her power and control as "chair" of the committee as
she "used some of her my influence to have it (Daisy's case) refused.
4 Inspectors Interrogation & Eva Smith
4.1 INSPECTOR: She has the least respect for the Inspector of all the characters. She tries
- unsuccessfully - to intimidate him and force him to leave by saying her husband
"was Lord Mayor only two years ago" and that he's "still a magistrate"
4.1.1 She expects her views to be accepted b/c she is upper class but when the
Inspector contradicts her she refers to him as "impertinent"
4.1.2 Then lies to him when she claims that she does not
recognise the photograph that he shows her.
4.2 VIEWS/ATTITUDE: Like her husband Sybil is delighted that the inspector was
a "hoax". She says Eric and Sheila are "overtired", again treating them like
children and also tells Sheila that life can go on as before.
4.2.1 She tries to deny things that she doesn't want to believe: Eric's drinking,
Gerald's affair with Eva, and the fact that a working class girl would refuse
money even if it was stolen, claiming "She was giving herself ridiculous airs".
22.214.171.124 She accuses the father of the child (Eric), "If the girl's death is due to
anybody, it's due to him" before she realises she's condemning her own son.
4.3 EVA/DAISY: Daisy's death led to the simultaneous death of her Grandchild, although this seems
to have some effect on her she still seems distant and unemotional from the fact.
4.3.1 She is a liar. When first presented with the photograph of Eva
Smith she pretends not to recognise her and her dismissal of
her in terms of ‘a girl of her sort’ and ‘a girl of her position’
highlight her lack of compassion and social prejudice.
126.96.36.199 Irony: she lies to the Inspector and only reveals the truth when she's
exposed but the irony is she claims that Eva was putting on "ridiculous airs"
4.3.2 She appears to also have the least remorse for Daisy, repeatedly saying "she only had herself to blame".
This unabridged lack of remorse may be why the Inspector goes on to treat her so heavy-handedly.
188.8.131.52 She turns Daisy away as she was not a "deserving case" and was very angry of the "gross impertinence" of
Daisy calling herself "Mrs Birling". According to her Daisy didn't seem humble/thankful enough to receive help
and admits she was prejudice towards her but felt her decision was her "duty."
4.3.3 She's prejudice towards the lower class, she refers to Eva as one of the
"girls of that class" implying they are a different and inferior species.
4.3.4 She tries to keep a sense of moral superiority by claiming Gerald's affair with Eva is "disgusting."
5.1 She's unaware of Eric's drinking because "he's only a boy"
5.2 Meggarty, a man she feels is well respected is revealed to be "one of the worst sots and rogues in Brumley."
5.2.1 Sheila, a "child", knows about this when Mrs Birling does not highlights
how out of touch she is deeming her views not trustworthy.
5.3 She takes no responsibility but feels she is in a position to put
the blame on the father of Eva's baby but then says she would
not have placed this blame if she knew Eric was the father.
5.4 Like her husband, she refuses to believe she's done anything
wrong deeming her the least likeable character as she is the only
one who fails to show any remorse.