Discuss the way in which Sheila changes throughout the play
The Birlings are a middle Edwardian class family. The play is set in
1912, in the house of the Birling family in the North Midlands. At
that time a woman's role was considered inferior to the men's as it
was always presumed that the man was the head of the house. Women were
also not thought of as being able to take part in serious
conversations, and that they needed to be protected.
At the beginning of the play, Sheila is described as young,
attractive, girly and naïve. Also she has just become engaged. This is
made known through the stage directions and how she reacts to certain
At the start of the play, Sheila shows her character by being very
girly in her contributions to the conversation. As the stage
directions say 'Sheila is still admiring her ring' and not listening
to her father's speech. This shows that she is self-centred and is
enjoying the attention that the engagement is bringing her. Also she
refers to her parents as "Mummy" and "Daddy" at the beginning of the
play, emphasizing her dependency on her family. The arrival of the
Inspector seems to be the beginning of the change in Sheila. When
Sheila says 'except for all last summer, when you never came near me'.
She does not question Gerald further on the subject though she knew
where he was. She does not question him further about it because the
earlier, girly side of Sheila's character would not be able to cope
with the truth. Though she knows that he has not been 'awfully busy at
the works', where he said he has been, but having an affair.
When Sheila first finds out about the girl's suicide she is genuinely
upset and shows her sensitive side in her reaction, 'It's just that I
can't help thinking about this girl - destroying herself so horribly -
and I've been so happy tonight'. She feels this way because she has
been busy enjoying her self in her self obsessed world and she hasn't
been considering what is going on in the 'real' world.
As she finds out that her father is involved she thinks that his
behaviour was wrong, as she says 'But these girls aren't cheap labour
- they're people.' She sees Eva as a girl, not just as a way of making
more money. Sheila is ready to criticise her father on his behaviour
and although she is foolish and selfish, she has the potential to
change. At the time, some big business men were capitalist employers
who only cared about their self interests.
When Sheila finds out that she helped to contribute to Eva's
depression by getting her fired from...