A play written in 1944 but deliberately set in 1912, ‘An Inspector Calls’ by J.B.Priestley utilises the character of Sheila Birling to convey the youth’s ability to change.
Through the opening stage direction, Priestly describes the engagement between Sheila and Gerald, focusing on a ‘lighting (…) pink and intimate’. The fact Priestley employs the adjectives ‘pink and intimate’ alludes to the romantic relationship between Sheila and Gerald. The character of Sheila is introduced to us as a girl ‘in her early twenties’ and ‘rather pleased with life’. The adverb ‘early’ indicates how Sheila is young enough to reform her character and shape the future of society. Through utilising the phrase ‘rather pleased with life’, Priestley attempts to highlight her privileged lifestyle and how, up to now, has no reason to be distressed or unhappy with her existence. It is at this point of the play where the individual is portrayed as somewhat spoilt – clearly, she’s been raised with all her desires and demands. Perhaps Priestley used such language to highlight just how easy it is for the younger generation to change their arrogant or smug views, as later Sheila is presented as a for more intelligent and socialist being.
Subsequent to Act 1, Priestly begins to channel his socialist perspective on society through utilising Sheila as his voice piece. Despite the hierarchal and capitalist society of 1912, Sheila begins to question the wage gap between the rich and poor. In response to Arthur’s capitalist ideologies, she states ‘girls aren’t just cheap labour – they’re people too’. The fact she feels sympathy towards Arthur’s employees hints her sudden transformation from a conceited individual to a socialist and understanding female. The phrase ‘cheap labour’ highlights her perspective on the lower class – she feels as if the exclusive are taking advantage of the poor. This idea is reinforced through the noun ‘people’ – Sheila believes Mr.Birling is mistreating the unfortunate and utilising them as mere tools in his business. It is without a doubt that the individual is changing from a smug girl to a wiser young lady. Perhaps Priestly is attempting to highlight the prodigious gap between the rich and poor, and how only the youth are able to change this.
Drawing near the end of Act 1, it is already prominent that Sheila is in deep remorse towards her contribution to the death of Eva Smith. Such emotion is present as she states ‘I’ll never do it again to anybody’. The fact her attitude towards society had modified so quickly perhaps...