Explore the Way Sheila Is Presented in an Inspector Calls

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Date Submitted: 11/22/2012 11:09 AM

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Explore the ways that Sheila Birling is presented in An Inspector Calls. Use examples from the play in your response.

Sheila Birling is presented as one of the most interesting characters in An Inspector Calls due to her dramatic journey through change. At the beginning of the play, we can see that Sheila is presented as a playful and childish character. This is shown through the line “So you be careful” when referring to why Gerald didn’t visit during the summer. This is a severe situation, as Sheila suspects (though not outwardly) that Gerald is having an affair, but despite this, she still cannot be serious, and Priestly even describes her tone as “playful”. This contrasts greatly to later in the play when Sheila becomes the more dominant person in her relationship with Gerald – “I think you’d better take this with you (she hands him the ring)”. This level of maturity and ability to be able to take control of such a crucial situation as calling off a marriage presents to us that Sheila has very much changed from the playful and superficial girl she used to be.

At the very beginning of the play, Priestly describes to us, through stage directions, that “Sheila is a pretty girl in her early twenties, very pleased with life and rather excited”. This is further shown to us when Sheila is first given the ring, “Now I really feel engaged.” Here Priestly is presenting Sheila as very materialistic – in fact, so much that her love with Gerald was not strong enough to make her feel certain of the engagement – she needed the ring too.

Priestly cleverly uses foreshadowing with the line “Careful! I’ll never let it go out of my sight for an instant.” Through this, he is foreshadowing the juxtaposing events soon to come, when in fact Sheila is the one who hands back the ring, which she originally thought was her most “wonderful” possession. This has a dramatic effect on the audience, as the course of events throughout the evening has completely changed Sheila’s views...