1.1 He is described at the start as a
""heavy-looking, rather portentous
man in his middle fifties but rather
provincial in his speech.""
1.2 He has worked his way up in the
world and is proud of his
achievements. He boasts about
having been Mayor and tries (and
fails) to impress the Inspector with
his local standing and his influential
1.2.1 However, he is aware of people who are his social
superiors, which is why he shows off about the port to
Gerald, ""it's exactly the same port your father gets.""
He is proud that he is likely to be knighted, as that
would move him even higher in social circles.
1.3 He claims the party ""is one of the happiest nights of my
life."" This is not only because Sheila will be happy, but
because a merger with Crofts Limited will be good for his
1.4 He is optimistic for the future and confident that there will not be a war.
As the audience knows there will be a war, we begin to doubt Mr Birling's
1.5 He is extremely selfish
1.5.1 He wants to protect himself and his family. He believes that socialist ideas that stress the
importance of the community are ""nonsense"" and that ""a man has to make his own way.""
1.5.2 He wants to protect Birling and Co. He cannot
see that he did anything wrong when he fired
Eva Smith - he was just looking after his
1.5.3 He wants to protect his reputation. As the
Inspector's investigations continue, his
selfishness gets the better of him: he is
worried about how the press will view the story
in Act II, and accuses Sheila of disloyalty at
the start of Act III. He wants to hide the fact
that Eric stole money: ""I've got to cover this
up as soon as I can.""
1.6 At the end of the play, he
knows he has lost the chance
of his knighthood, his
reputation in Brumley and the
chance of Birling and Co.
merging with their rivals. Yet
he hasn't learnt the lesson of
the play: he is unable to admit
his responsibility for his part
in Eva's death.
2 Mrs Sybil Birling
2.1 She is described at the start as ""about fifty, a
rather cold woman and her husband's social
2.2 She is a snob, very aware of the
differences between social classes.
2.3 She has the least respect for the
Inspector of all the characters. She
tries - unsuccessfully - to intimidate him
and force him to leave, then lies to him
when she claims that she does not
recognise the photograph that he shows
2.4 She sees Sheila and Eric still as ""children"" and speaks patronisingly to them.
2.5 She tries to deny things that she doesn't
want to believe: Eric's drinking, Gerald's
affair with Eva
2.6 She admits she was ""prejudiced"" against the girl
who applied to her committee for help and saw it as
her ""duty"" to refuse to help her. Her narrow sense
of morality dictates that the father of a child should be
responsible for its welfare, regardless of
2.7 At the end of the play like her husband, she
refuses to believe that she did anything wrong
and doesn't accept responsibility for her part
in Eva's death.
3 Eric Birling
3.1 He is described at the start as ""in his early
twenties, not quite at ease, half shy, half
3.2 Eric seems embarrassed and awkward right from the start. The
first mention of him in the script is ""Eric suddenly guffaws,"" and
then he is unable to explain his laughter, as if he is nervous about
3.3 It soon becomes clear to us (although it takes his parents
longer) that he is a hardened drinker. Gerald admits, ""I have
gathered that he does drink pretty hard.""
3.4 He feels guilt and frustration with
himself over his relationship with the
girl. He cries, ""Oh - my God! - how
stupid it all is!"" as he tells his story.
He is horrified that his thoughtless
actions had such consequences.
3.5 He had some innate sense of responsibility, though,
because although he got a woman pregnant, he was
concerned enough to give her money.
3.6 He is appalled by his parents' inability to admit their
own responsibility. He tells them forcefully, ""I'm
ashamed of you."" When Birling tries to threaten him in
Act III, Eric is aggressive in return: ""I don't give a
3.7 t the end of the play, like Sheila, he is fully aware of his social responsibility.
4 Sheila Birling
4.1 She is described at the start as ""a pretty girl in
her early twenties, very pleased with life and
4.2 Even though she seems very playful at the opening, we know that she has had suspicions about Gerald when
she mentions ""last summer, when you never came near me.""
4.3 she shows her compassion immediately
she hears of her father's treatment of Eva
Smith: ""But these girls aren't cheap labour
- they're people.""
4.4 She is horrified by her own part in Eva's story. She feels full of
guilt for her jealous actions and blames herself as ""really
4.5 She is very perceptive
4.5.1 she realises that Gerald knew Daisy Renton from his
reaction, the moment the Inspector mentioned her name.
4.5.2 she is the first to
realise Eric's part in
4.5.3 near the end, she is the first to consider
whether the Inspector may not be real.
4.6 She is curious.
4.7 She is
4.8 She is angry with her parents in Act 3
for trying to ""pretend that nothing
much has happened."" She is seeing
her parents in a new, unfavourable
4.9 At the end of the play, Sheila is much wiser.
She can now judge her parents and Gerald
from a new perspective, but the greatest
change has been in herself: her social
conscience has been awakened and she is
aware of her responsibilities.
5 Gerald Croft
5.1 He is described as ""an attractive
chap about thirty, rather too manly
to be a dandy but very much the
easy well-bred man-about-town.""
5.2 He is an aristocrat - the son of Lord and
Lady Croft. We realise that they are not
over-impressed by Gerald's
engagement to Sheila because they
declined the invitation to the dinner.
5.3 He is not as willing as Sheila to admit his part in the
girl's death to the Inspector and initially pretends that
he never knew her.
5.4 He did have some genuine feeling for Daisy Renton, however: he is very moved
when he hears of her death. He tells Inspector Goole that he arranged for her to
live in his friend's flat ""because I was sorry for her;"" she became his mistress
because ""She was young and pretty and warm-hearted - and intensely grateful.""
5.5 Despite this, in Act 3 he tries
to come up with as much
evidence as possible to prove
that the Inspector is a fake -
because that would get him
off the hook. It is Gerald who
confirms that the local force
has no officer by the name of
Goole, he who realises it may
not have been the same girl
and he who finds out from the
infirmary that there has not
been a suicide case in
months. He seems to throw
his energies into
""protecting"" himself rather
than ""changing"" himself
5.6 At the end of the play, he has not changed. He
has not gained a new sense of social
responsibility, which is why Sheila (who has)
is unsure whether to take back the
6 Eva Smith
6.1 Think about Eva's name. Eva is similar to Eve, the
first woman created by God in the Bible. Smith is
the most common English surname. So, Eva Smith
could represent every woman of her class.
7 Inspector Goole
7.1 He is described on his entrance as creating ""an
impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness.
He is a man in his fifties, dressed in a plain darkish suit.
He speaks carefully, weightily, and has a disconcerting
habit of looking hard at the person he addresses before
actually speaking. ""
7.2 He works very systematically; he likes to deal with ""one person
and one line of enquiry at a time."" His method is to confront a
suspect with a piece of information and then make them talk - or,
as Sheila puts it, ""he's giving us the rope - so that we'll hang
7.3 He is a figure of authority. He
deals with each member of the
family very firmly and several times
we see him ""massively taking
charge as disputes erupt between
7.4 He seems to know and understand an extraordinary amount
7.4.1 He knows the history of Eva Smith and the
Birlings' involvement in it, even though she
died only hours ago.
7.4.2 He knows things are going to happen - He says ""I'm waiting...
To do my duty"" just before Eric's return, as if he expected Eric
to reappear at exactly that moment
7.4.3 He is obviously in a great hurry towards
the end of the play: he stresses ""I
haven't much time.""
7.5 His final speech is like a sermon or a politician's. He leaves the family with the
message ""We are responsible for each other"" and warns them of the ""fire
and blood and anguish"" that will result if they do not pay attention to what he has