An Inspector Calls

by J. B. Priestley

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How is Sheila presented dramatically in An Inspector Calls?

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Sheila is the most sympathetic of the Birlings because she grasps and internalizes the moral lesson that Inspector Goole is trying to convey to them all. We see her grow as a person as she is faced with her guilt in the death of Eva Smith.

All of the wealthy Birlings have contributed to the demise of Eva, thoughtlessly using their power as privileged members of society against her. In Sheila's case, she had Eva, who had gotten a job as a shop girl in a department store, fired, because she imagined Eva was rude to her. She selfishly demanded that Eva be dismissed from a job she badly needed over a trivial incident by insisting she would withdraw her family's business at the store if Eva were retained.

Losing the job spirals Eva into desperate poverty. As Inspector Goole talks, Sheila realizes the wrong she has done to this young woman and feels sorrow over her action. She shows moral growth from the person she was, who willfully used her power without realizing the consequences, to one who is able to fully perceive and, most importantly, feel that she and her family have behaved badly and need to make amends to this young woman.

She is a sharp contrast to her parents, who immediately return to their own selfish, indifferent ways with callous disregard for Eva when they learn that she didn't commit suicide after all—and thus, they can't be blamed for anything. They have only cared, all along, about saving their own skins. Sheila, unlike them, represents the hope in the play that the future can be better than the past, because she has genuinely become more sensitive and compassionate.

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