The smart way to improve grades

Comprehensive & curriculum aligned

Affordable pricing from £10/month

Analyse the Role of Key Characters and Their Development in 'An Inspector Calls'

In this worksheet, students will analyse the key characters in 'An Inspector Calls', considering Priestley's use of language, structure and dramatic devices and how the characters reflect the context in which the play was written and set.

'Analyse the Role of Key Characters and Their Development in 'An Inspector Calls'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   Eduqas, OCR, Pearson Edexcel, AQA

Curriculum topic:   Post-1914 Prose / Drama, Modern Prose or Drama, Post-1914 Play or Novel, Modern Texts: Drama

Curriculum subtopic:   An Inspector Calls

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Detective on a phone

 

What techniques does Priestley use to present his characters in 'An Inspector Calls'?

The main characters in the play are:

Mr Birling - the father

Mrs Birling - the mother

Sheila - the daughter of Mr and Mrs Birling

Eric - the son of Mr and Mrs Birling

Gerald Croft - Sheila's fiance

Eva Smith/Daisy Renton- a girl who we never see on stage but learn has committed suicide. Eva changes her name to Daisy Renton

Inspector Goole - an 'inspector' investigating the death of Eva Smith

 

In the exam, you may be asked to write about how a particular character is presented in 'An Inspector Calls'.

 

To achieve a higher mark in the exam, you need to show that you are analysing a character.

 

To do this try to

- Pick out some of the language/structure/dramatic devices used to present the character. 

- Consider how the character reflects something about the context in which Priestley was writing and in which the play is set.

 

In this activity, we will practise analysing the characters in 'An Inspector Calls' in this way.

 

You should always refer to your own text when working through these examples.  These quotations are for reference only.

What does Mr Birling represent in the play?

Capitalism

Socialism

What does the Inspector try to teach the family?

 

Detective on a phone

Use the words below to help you with this question:

 

Voice

Consequences

Socialism

Responsibility

Corrupt

 

Capitalism

Socialism

How would you describe Mr Birling's character?

Wise

Selfish

Unkind

Kind

Repentant

Unchanged

How does Sheila change throughout the play?

Column A

Column B

At the start of the play
Sheila is giddy with excitement about her engageme...
A year before the events of the play
Sheila has learnt the Inspector's message about so...
Throughout the Inspector's investgation.
Sheila is selfish, petty and unreasonable and uses...
At the end of the play
Sheila is shown to be one of the most perceptive c...

Priestley uses the technique of dramatic irony to undermine Mr Birling's opinions in the play and therefore to question the validity of capitalism. 

 

Titanic ship

True

False

What symbolism is used alongside the Inspector in the play to reflect how he will reveal the truth

 

Which quotation below best demonstrates how Mrs Birling is prejudiced against Eva/Daisy?

"But I think she had only herself to blame."

"Girls of that class - "

"It didn't take me long to get the truth - or some of the truth - out of her."

Match the quotations to the analytical comment about the character.

Column A

Column B

"I consider I did my duty."
Priestley shows that Mr Birling is unchanged after...
"I was almost certain for a knighthood."
Priestley shows how Eric has been changed by the I...
"But now you're beginning all over again to preten...
Priestley shows that Sheila is critical of her par...
"It's what happened to the girl and what we all di...
Priestley shows that Mrs Birling fails to learn fr...

Does Gerald take responsibility for his actions and learn from the Inspector's message about social responsibility?

 

What does the following quotation suggest?

 

"Everything's all right now, Sheila."

 

 

 

Priestley shows that Gerald learns from the Inspector's lesson about social responsibility and shows remorse for his actions

Priestley shows that Gerald, much like the older Birlings, is quick to pretend everything's okay when he discovers Inspector Goole was fake. He shows a determination to prove that nothing really happened to the victim, rather than accept that his actions have had an effect on another person

It is now time to have a go at a mini-essay question.

 

In the exam, you might be asked to write about how the writer presents a particular character in the play.

 

You will need to use quotations to support each of your points and should link your points about a character to the key contextual factors surrounding the play.

 

For the highest marks, you will need to show an analysis of the writer's techniques in presenting this character.

 

Task: How does Priestley present the character of Mr Birling in 'An Inspector Calls'?

 

Try to write 3 paragraphs.

  • Question 1

What does Mr Birling represent in the play?

CORRECT ANSWER
Capitalism
EDDIE SAYS
Mr Birling is a capitalist. As a business owner, he's most interested in his own profit. He aims to keep wages low and prices high. Priestley shows this capitalist attitude to be selfish and damaging to those lower in the social hierarchy. Remember that Priestley depicted the capitalist society in 1912 to warn his 1945/6 audiences of what society could easily return to if they weren't careful. Britain had started to rebuild after the war in a more socially equal way and Priestley wanted to promote the idea of society moving forward by adopting a socialist viewpoint.
  • Question 2

What does the Inspector try to teach the family?

 

Detective on a phone

Use the words below to help you with this question:

 

Voice

Consequences

Socialism

Responsibility

Corrupt

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to fill all spaces? The Inspector delivers Priestley's socialist message about social responsibility. Some of the characters learn from this, while others seem unwilling to see beyond their own selfish gain. Rather than offering an explicit criticism of capitalism, Priestley uses the Inspector to unravel a story that gradually reveals the corruption implicit in a capitalist system. In this way, the inspector, step by step proves that people's actions have a huge social consequence.
  • Question 3

How would you describe Mr Birling's character?

CORRECT ANSWER
Selfish
Unkind
Unchanged
EDDIE SAYS
The best words to describe Mr Birling are selfish, thoughtless and unchanged. He's selfish and unkind because he doesn't think about other people, only his own social status. He's forever talking about his own reputation and is more interested in escaping public scandal than considering how sad Eva's death is. At the end of the play, he shows no remorse for his actions. He fails to take on board the Inspector's message and is completely unchanged.
  • Question 4

How does Sheila change throughout the play?

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

At the start of the play
Sheila is giddy with excitement a...
A year before the events of the p...
Sheila is selfish, petty and unre...
Throughout the Inspector's invest...
Sheila is shown to be one of the ...
At the end of the play
Sheila has learnt the Inspector's...
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to match them all? When you are analysing a character, it's important to think about whether they stay the same or evolve throughout the play. Sheila as a character transforms. At the beginning of the play, she's presented much like the rest of her family; as a selfish person who doesn't think about the impact of their actions on others. As the Inspector interrogates the family, we see that Sheila immediately shows remorse for her actions. Whilst women during 1912 were often considered weak and unintelligent, Sheila is shown to be one of the most perceptive characters in the play. After all, she quickly picks up what the Inspector is doing! By the end of the play, it's very clear that she has learnt her lesson. She understands how her actions affect others and is ashamed that her parents won't accept their social responsibility too. Priestley uses Sheila to demonstrate how the more open-minded younger generation in 1945/6 would be the ones to pave the way forward for a more socially equal society.
  • Question 5

Priestley uses the technique of dramatic irony to undermine Mr Birling's opinions in the play and therefore to question the validity of capitalism. 

 

Titanic ship

CORRECT ANSWER
True
EDDIE SAYS
Priestley uses dramatic irony to undermine Mr Birling's opinions. Remember that the play was first performed in 1945/6 but set in 1912 - therefore, Priestley's audiences had more knowledge than his characters! So, when Mr Birling very confidently expresses that there won't be a war and that the Titanic is 'unsinkable', his audiences can see how ridiculous these opinions are. There were two wars after this comment and the Titanic sunk! In this way, Priestley uses dramatic irony to undermine Mr Birling's opinions and in turn, questions the validity of capitalism as this is what Mr Birling represents.
  • Question 6

What symbolism is used alongside the Inspector in the play to reflect how he will reveal the truth

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Light
EDDIE SAYS
Light symbolism is used alongside the Inspector. On the Inspector's arrival, we hear Birling say 'Give us more light'. Light is often symbolic of truth and here we see Priestley highlighting that the Inspector will uncover the lies and deception in the Birling family and reveal the truth! Indeed one by one, the Inspector gets each character to make a confession through his careful interrogation. Remember in the exam to use specific technical terminology to describe the writer's craft. Symbolism is a great technique to explore - lookout for other parts of the play where light symbolism is used with the Inspector.
  • Question 7

Which quotation below best demonstrates how Mrs Birling is prejudiced against Eva/Daisy?

CORRECT ANSWER
"Girls of that class - "
EDDIE SAYS
The second quotation is the best one here! Remember that in the exam it's important to support your ideas with quotations from the text. Remember to carefully choose which quotation best demonstrates your point. The phrase, "that class" is derogatory and conveys the sense that Mrs Birling is looking down on Eva as something much beneath herself. Indeed, Mrs Birling admits that she was prejudiced against Eva's case and shows no remorse for this! Priestley wanted to depict the distinct divide between the classes in 1912 and demonstrate just how much prejudice surrounded being working class. However, Priestley undermines these prejudiced views by showing that Eva has a much stronger set of morals than most of the Birlings - she refuses Eric's stolen money for example!
  • Question 8

Match the quotations to the analytical comment about the character.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"I consider I did my duty."
Priestley shows that Mrs Birling ...
"I was almost certain for a knigh...
Priestley shows that Mr Birling i...
"But now you're beginning all ove...
Priestley shows that Sheila is cr...
"It's what happened to the girl a...
Priestley shows how Eric has been...
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to match them all? Notice how Priestley shows a distinct difference between the younger and older generation in these quotations. The writer wanted to show how the more open-minded, younger generation would be the ones to pave the way towards a more socially equal society in 1945/6. Also, Priestley conveys a message of how blind those caught up in their capitalist attitudes were to the impact their actions had on others.
  • Question 9

Does Gerald take responsibility for his actions and learn from the Inspector's message about social responsibility?

 

What does the following quotation suggest?

 

"Everything's all right now, Sheila."

 

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Priestley shows that Gerald, much like the older Birlings, is quick to pretend everything's okay when he discovers Inspector Goole was fake. He shows a determination to prove that nothing really happened to the victim, rather than accept that his actions have had an effect on another person
EDDIE SAYS
The second explanation is correct. Although Gerald is part of the younger generation, he doesn't show the remorse that Eric and Sheila do. There's a sense that Gerald is so caught up in the capitalist mindset, that his influential family is a part of, he doesn't see how the message is relevant to him. Gerald displays great determination to prove everything was fake and then attempts to give Sheila her engagement ring back, suggesting how quickly he can return to normality and pretend everything's ok. In this way, Gerald is much more similar to the older Birlings - he doesn't learn from the Inspector's message about social responsibility.
  • Question 10

It is now time to have a go at a mini-essay question.

 

In the exam, you might be asked to write about how the writer presents a particular character in the play.

 

You will need to use quotations to support each of your points and should link your points about a character to the key contextual factors surrounding the play.

 

For the highest marks, you will need to show an analysis of the writer's techniques in presenting this character.

 

Task: How does Priestley present the character of Mr Birling in 'An Inspector Calls'?

 

Try to write 3 paragraphs.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
A paragraph might look something like this: Priestley uses dramatic irony to undermine Mr Birling's opinions in Act 1. In his speech Mr Birling expresses his view that those who are talking about the prospect of war are 'talking nonsense' and that the Titanic due to sail the following week is 'absolutely unsinkable.' Because Priestley's play was first performed in 1945 and the play was set in 1912, the audience can see how ridiculous these opinions are; two wars break out after this and the Titanic sinks. The arrogant confidence expressed through words such as 'absolutely' only heighten the sense that Mr Birling does not know what he is talking about. In this way, Priestley also forces his audience to question Mr Birling's capitalist viewpoint; if these other opinions were so wrong, perhaps Mr Birling's capitalist ideas are false too. Priestley highlights the corruption of capitalism through the character of Mr Birling and warns his 1945/6 audiences of what society could return to if people do not adopt a more socialist approach.
Try it ---- OR ----

Sign up for a £1 trial so you can track and measure your child's progress on this activity.

What is EdPlace?

We're your National Curriculum aligned online education content provider helping each child succeed in English, maths and science from year 1 to GCSE. With an EdPlace account you’ll be able to track and measure progress, helping each child achieve their best. We build confidence and attainment by personalising each child’s learning at a level that suits them.

Get started
laptop

Start your £1 trial today.
Subscribe from £10/month.