Next is Sheila, Arthur’s daughter but infinitely wiser than her father, she is the one person who realised from the start that there was something distinctively different about this inspector and I think her first clue to this is how he knows the answers to all his questions. She notices that inspector is waiting for each of the characters to say there part before destroying there story completely in implementing them in the girls death in some way.She tries to warn her mother of this but she is far too pompous and feels she is too far above the inspector for him to do any real damage to her.
How wrong she was. Sheila realises from her mothers opening sentence to the inspector, “we’ll be glad to tell you anything you want to know but I don’t think we can help you much”, that she has just dug herself a whole and is about to fall into it. “I’m afraid you’ll do something or say something that you’ll regret afterwards”, is Sheila’s vain attempt to save her mother from the inspectors knowing wrath.Sheila and to a slightly lesser extent Eric are the only ones who accept full responsibility for their actions leading to the young girls death, and they are fully prepared to learn from their actions to ensure nothing like this will ever happen to them or anyone else again. From this I believe the writer is trying to teach us two things. Firstly, I believe he is saying that the world as a whole should not continue making the mistakes of the past, but learn from them so that society may grow and improve as a result. Secondly, I also believe he is trying to tell us that our children are our future, the next generation if you will, and that we should make them aware of our past mistakes so that societies problems and drawbacks do not get carried on through time.
Both very subtle but very well put teachings.Next is Gerald, who is quite an obscure character as far as his reactions to the girls death and his and the other characters involvement in it. When he learns of Birlings involvement, he agrees with him, the girl should have been sacked and he bases this opinion from experience, being in the same line of work as he. But when he finds out about his own implications his attitude changes definitely.
He seems to feel a great guilt. In my opinion he is the person he did the most damage to the poor girl, emotionally at least. I believe he pushed her over the edge and made her impending death a certainty.
However all of this was unintentional. She fell in love with him, but not he with her. She became his mistress almost accidentally, it just seemed the natural progression from the relationship they already had, but to her it was much, much more.When he broke the relationship off, although she may have put on a brave face I believe she would have been utterly distraught because it was probably the first time she had been happy in a long time.
Gerald, I believe, having just found out what had happened to her before he came along probably realised this also and made him feel the guilt which he displayed. However he returns to the play close to the end claiming to have found evidence of his own proving the inspector was false. “I met a police sergeant I know down the road. I asked him about this inspector Goole and described the chap carefully to him. He swore there wasn’t any inspector Goole or any body like him on the force”.Are Gerald’s excited words, further more, he declares “but how do we know it was the same girl?”.
This last sentence is mad in referral to the fact that Goole could have shown them each a different picture as he never let the others see when he was showing it to one of them. Arthur and Mrs Birling accept this readily, jumping at the chance to save there reputations, however I believe Gerald is doing this for an entirely different reason.I think he felt so guilty when he found out his involvement in the girls death that he unknowingly began to search for a way to prove the inspector wrong, so he would not have to live with the guilt upon him. This again proves Priestly’s moral. He is trying to show that we cannot merely ignore society’s problems, or look for reasons why they aren’t really there. If it effects one it effects us all and we have to be prepared to shoulder that responsibility.
Then comes Mrs B. Spite, spite is the only reason this woman refused to help the girl. Spite in return for her insulting her class.
“she called herself Mrs Birling”. Later we find this is due to the fact she is carrying Eric Birlings child, but this is of little relevance here. Eva had attempted to seek charitable help, from Mrs Birlings charity, after refusing to receive any more of Eric’s stolen money. However Mrs B.
was so insulted by the girls supposed ignorance that she used her power and influence to have the girls plea refused. Essentially tying the not around her neck. This again shows Mr Priestlys moral in yet another form.He is showing that we must not judge society by its shortcomings, everybody makes mistakes and we are no exception. We should look beyond those to society’s good points to help us get a view of what it is really like, Mrs B. didn’t even give Eva that chance and she died because of it.
This does not strike me as the type of woman suitable for charity work, and I believe this to be her showing off her class by showing she does not need a paying job as she has enough money already.Last but by no means least come the inspector himself, Mr Goole. His name suggest he is a ghost, however I believe him to be the characters consciences. An apparition created by the own minds after years of making decisions that they neither knew nor cared about, but which had often irreparably harmed the courses of those peoples lives. He was a teacher, and his lesson was that we should take more care about what we say and do, because, even though we may not know it, we are carelessly changing the world in which we live and the society in which we reside.
These changes are minor and often passable, but over long periods of time they build up, and, just like the inspector caught up with the Birlings, Our mistakes shall one day catch up with us.