An Inspector Calls

by J. B. Priestley

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In An Inspector Calls, how is the character Gerald portrayed?

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Gerald Croft is not a member of the Birling family and his family, who belong to the aristocracy, are not based on the harsh treatment of factory workers like Eva Smith. The Inspector considers Gerald's actions were better than the others because he had affection for Eva and made her happy for a time. However, at the end of the play Gerald is still too quick to tell Sheila that 'everything is all right now' and ask her to take back her ring.

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Gerald Croft is presented as generally a well-meaning, but rather weak young man. He's dominated by his strong-willed father, who strongly disapproves of his engagement to Sheila. Gerald rejects the money-grubbing value system of his father but lacks the strength of character to make a clean break. He knows that without his father's financial support, he won't be able to make it on his own. So he leads the life of a dissolute man-about-town, which indirectly leads to Daisy Renton's death.

Gerald is genuinely upset at what happened to Daisy, but his relationship with her was exploitative, based as it was on a master-servant dynamic. Despite his bitter tears, Gerard's instinct for self-preservation soon kicks in. He goes out of his way to prove that Inspector Goole's a phony, which indicates that he's not prepared to live with the consequences of his actions. Instead of manning up and facing the music he's trying to wheedle his way out of his responsibilities by attempting to discredit the Inspector. Despite everything, Gerald has shown that he's not prepared to change, and has learned absolutely nothing.

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How is the character of Gerald presented and how does he develop in 'An Inspector Calls'?

Gerald is not a member of the Birling family and his family - his mother isLadyCroft - belong to the aristocracy while the Birlings do not. Gerald's money, unlike the Birlings, is not based on the harsh treatment of factory workers like Eva Smith. Therefore Priestley presents him in a more sympathetic light than Mr and Mrs Birling. However, he is older than Sheila and Eric and less susceptible to the Inspector's message so he doesn't develop as much as they do.

Gerald knew Eva better than any of the others and certainly treated her better. His grief at her fate is genuine and personal: he nearly breaks down as he remembers Eva and he says, 'I'm rather more - upset - by this business than I probably appear to be'. In more modern times he might not have kept such a check on his emotions.

He's not entirely blameless: Eva is heartbroken when their affair ends; Sheila is understandably hurt and he has not respected the commitment he made to her. But the final judgement is the Inspector's who considers that Gerald 'at least had some affection for ..(Eva).. and made her happy for a time'. This cannot be said of the others; Gerald treated her as a human being.

However, at the end of the play we see that Gerald has not learnt from his experience with the Inspector, as Sheila and Eric have. Having uncovered that Goole is not a real inspector he is too quick to tell Sheila that 'Everything is all right now' and ask her to take back the ring. The fact of his infidelity should have told him to give Sheila more time; we get the sense he hasn't fundamentally changed, and any guilt he felt about his treatment of Sheila is short lived.

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Does Gerald’s character change throughout the play An Inspector Calls?

At the end of An Inspector Calls, there is a clear divide between the two generations of the Birling family in their response to the Inspector's revelations. Mr. and Mrs. Birling have been shaken by the experience but feel that the real question is not how they have acted but whether there really was a girl who died of drinking disinfectant after their combined mistreatment. If there was not, they are inclined to discuss the whole affair as a joke.

Sheila and Eric, however, see that whatever else the Inspector's visit may have been, it was not a joke. They accept their moral culpability, whether or not it has led to the girl's death. They have changed over the course of the play.

Gerald is some years older than Sheila and Eric, but he is still of their generation. However, he side with the older Birlings in their appraisal of the situation. It is Gerald who decides to call the infirmary and ascertains that they have not had a suicide in months. The last words he speaks are to declare with great complacency that everything is alright and to ask Sheila to take back her engagement ring. Sheila refuses, as she sees that Gerald has not changed and has learned nothing about himself or his relationships with others over the course of the play.

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