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Evaluate Key Characters and Their Development in 'An Inspector Calls'

In this worksheet, students will evaluate 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.

'Evaluate 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

Edwardian lady                   thought bubble               Detective on a phone

 

This activity is all about evaluating characters and their roles within the play.

 

How far do you agree that Gerald's actions towards Eva were immoral?

To what extent do the characters learn from the Inspector's message about social responsibility?

Which character is the most guilty?

What is the significance of Inspector Goole being proven as a fake?

 

To achieve the highest marks in your exam response, you will need to offer a personal and perceptive interpretation.

 

This means that you need to:

- Ask questions of the characters

- Think about all of the different ways we might view them- positive and negative

- Think about whether they change throughout the play

- Try to evaluate how far we can say they possess a particular characteristic

 

Remember that you will also need to show a close analysis of the writer's techniques in presenting a particular character and relate your ideas to the key contextual factors surrounding the play.

 

In this activity, you will evaluate how each character is presented in 'An Inspector Calls'.

 

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

 

What does Priestley intend to show about the upper classes of society in this following quotation spoken by Mr Birling to the Inspector?

 

"Perhaps I ought to explain first that this is Mr Gerald Croft - the son of Sir George Croft - you know, Crofts Limited."

 

Choose the explanation that evaluates the quotation in relation to the context of the play.

Priestley shows that Mr Birling tries to use his social power to manipulate the Inspector and escape any blame

Priestley shows that Mr Birling is using his connections to the influential Croft family to manipulate the Inspector. Priestley shows how the upper classes of society in 1912 used their social power in a corrupt and immoral way

What technique does Priestley use to undermine Mr Birling's opinions in the play and therefore question the validity of capitalism?  (Clue, this technique comprises of two words!)

 

Titanic

How far would you agree that Sheila conforms to the gender stereotype of women at the time Priestley set the play?  Which evaluation do you think is most accurate?

Priestley uses Sheila to represent the gender stereotype of women in 1912. She is shown to be submissive to the men in the family and only interested in superficial things such as clothes

While Priestley depicts Sheila with some stereotypical traits of the Edwardian woman, he also shows how she is more resistant to the traditional gender roles and possesses more intelligence than many of the other characters in the play

Priestley shows Sheila completely breaking the gender stereotype of women of this period

How far would you agree that Gerald's actions towards Eva are just as punishable as Eric's?

Column A

Column B

Gerald gives Daisy money and a room
"Everything's all right now, Sheila."
Gerald says that he was acting out of compassion
"I was sorry for her and didn't like the idea of h...
Gerald fails to see that his actions still have co...
"So I insisted on Daisy moving into those rooms an...
Although Eric acted cruelly towards Eva, he accept...
"It's what happened to the girl and what we all di...

The Inspector is often associated with the symbolism of light to represent how he reflects the truth.

 

Lamp and an armchair

 

What does Sheila move towards in Act 1 stage directions to symbolise she will also accept the truth?

Complete the passage below to evaluate the presentation of Eva Smith in the play.  Use the list below to help you.

 

millions

symbolise

responsible

effect

real

body

suicide

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 Sheila in 'An Inspector Calls'?

 

Try to write 3 paragraphs.

For the highest marks in the exam, it is also important to analyse the structural features of the play.

 

What is the significance of the following quotation at the end of the play?

 

"Mr Birling: That was the police. A girl has just died - on her way to the infirmary - after swallowing some disinfectant. And a police inspector is on his way here - to ask some - questions."

 

Click on all of the accurate analytical comments below.

The repetitive structure where Inspector Goole is discovered as fake and then time almost repeats with another Inspector arriving is used as a structural device by Priestley to show how people have a chance to learn, change and begin again with improved social values

Priestley's use of a fragmented sentence structure in the quotation shows that Mr Birling is shaken and worried. He had shown relief and celebrated the discovery of the fake Inspector but here we get the sense that he knows that because he failed to learn his lesson, he will now be punished

Priestley shows that once people act in a certain way they can't change and there is no hope

Mr Birling is shown to finally feel some remorse in this quotation

Priestley ends with this quotation to create an ambiguous conclusion to the play, suggest to his audience that they are now in control of what happens. They can return to the corrupt capitalist values of Edwardian society or move forward embracing their social responsibility

Match the quotations to the analytical comment about the character.

Column A

Column B

"I consider I did my duty"
Priestley shows that Mrs Birling fails to learn fr...
"I was almost certain for a knighthood"
Priestley shows that Mr Birling is unchanged after...
"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 how Eric has been changed by the I...

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.

 

The following question is worded in order to encourage you to show evaluation - try to write 3 paragraphs and then a concluding paragraph where you write an evaluative summary to answer the 'To what extent...?' part. Here you should give your personal response!

 

Task: To what extent is Eric the most punishable in the play?

 

Try to write 3 paragraphs.

  • Question 1

What does Priestley intend to show about the upper classes of society in this following quotation spoken by Mr Birling to the Inspector?

 

"Perhaps I ought to explain first that this is Mr Gerald Croft - the son of Sir George Croft - you know, Crofts Limited."

 

Choose the explanation that evaluates the quotation in relation to the context of the play.

CORRECT ANSWER
Priestley shows that Mr Birling is using his connections to the influential Croft family to manipulate the Inspector. Priestley shows how the upper classes of society in 1912 used their social power in a corrupt and immoral way
EDDIE SAYS
Did you spot that the second one linked to context? Both explanations are true but the second one links the character trait to what Priestley wanted to say about society. The quotation above links to many other lines that Mr Birling speaks where he name drops and reminds the Inspector of his social position. He's clearly trying to almost blackmail the Inspector to get him to let him off the hook! Of course, the Inspector isn't at all intimidated by this!
  • Question 2

What technique does Priestley use to undermine Mr Birling's opinions in the play and therefore question the validity of capitalism?  (Clue, this technique comprises of two words!)

 

Titanic

CORRECT ANSWER
Dramatic irony
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 in some respects! 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! Here Priestley uses dramatic irony to undermine Mr Birling's opinions and in turn question the validity of capitalism as this is what Mr Birling represents.
  • Question 3

How far would you agree that Sheila conforms to the gender stereotype of women at the time Priestley set the play?  Which evaluation do you think is most accurate?

CORRECT ANSWER
While Priestley depicts Sheila with some stereotypical traits of the Edwardian woman, he also shows how she is more resistant to the traditional gender roles and possesses more intelligence than many of the other characters in the play
EDDIE SAYS
The second evaluation is the most accurate. Sheila is initially shown as possessing some of the stereotypical gender traits of women during this period. For example, at the beginning of the play she is excited by her engagement ring, saying "Mummy - isn't it a beauty?" and "Now I really feel engaged" showing her interest in the superficial aspects of getting married. However, very quickly we see some of her other comments which suggest that she won't be so willing to fulfil the stereotypical role of the married woman. When Mrs Birling says when she is married she will "realise that men with important work to do sometimes have to spend nearly all their time and energy on their business", her response is "I don't believe I will." Indeed as the investigation progresses, Priestley portrays Sheila as one of the most perceptive characters in the play, showing her to be much more than the gender stereotype of the time.
  • Question 4

How far would you agree that Gerald's actions towards Eva are just as punishable as Eric's?

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Gerald gives Daisy money and a ro...
"So I insisted on Daisy moving in...
Gerald says that he was acting ou...
"I was sorry for her and didn't l...
Gerald fails to see that his acti...
"Everything's all right now, Shei...
Although Eric acted cruelly towar...
"It's what happened to the girl a...
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to match them all? For the highest marks in the exam, it is important to explore the different aspects of a character and evaluate 'to what extent' and 'how far'. We might argue that Gerald doesn't treat Eva as badly as Eric does. He certainly presents his actions as compassionate - he wanted to help Eva and protect her from the immoral actions of other men by providing her with a room and money. Eric on the other hand, treats her cruelly in his drunken state and when he offers money to help her when he discovers she is pregnant, it is stolen money. However, Eric clearly accepts his responsibility more that Gerald does. Even though Gerald wasn't cruel to her, leaving her clearly affected her more than he realised. He doesn't seem to learn anything from the Inspector's message about social responsibility. By looking at all of these different aspects of a character, we are offering an evaluation. Think about what your personal response to this question would be.
  • Question 5

The Inspector is often associated with the symbolism of light to represent how he reflects the truth.

 

Lamp and an armchair

 

What does Sheila move towards in Act 1 stage directions to symbolise she will also accept the truth?

CORRECT ANSWER
Lamp
Light
A Lamp
A Light
A Standard Lamp
EDDIE SAYS
Did you spot this one? Sheila is depicted in the stage directions as moving closer to the light. This perhaps symbolises how she'll have to accept the truth about her own actions at this point in the play but perhaps also suggests that she'll be able to be honest about her involvement. Remember that for the highest marks in the exam, you'll need to analyse the language used in quotations - exploring symbolism is a great way to do this!
  • Question 6

Complete the passage below to evaluate the presentation of Eva Smith in the play.  Use the list below to help you.

 

millions

symbolise

responsible

effect

real

body

suicide

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to fill all of the spaces? Try to think of the characters as symbols in the play - here you're analysing the writer's craft. They all have a purpose and are used by Priestley to represent something about the Edwardian society he's writing about and to deliver the message he intends. Whilst Eva seems to be an imaginary character, she's clearly a symbol for all working-class women (and men) of this period. Priestley employs her to show how people's actions have consequences and to deliver his socialist message.
  • Question 7

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 Sheila in 'An Inspector Calls'?

 

Try to write 3 paragraphs.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
A paragraph might look something like this: Priestley uses Sheila to represent how the more open minded younger generation would be the ones to pave the way towards a more socially equal society in 1945/6. Priestley's use of the adjective 'distressed' in the stage directions shows how Sheila feels genuinely upset about what has happened to Eva and her repetition of 'never' in 'I'll never, never do it again to anybody' demonstrates how she has learnt that her actions have consequences on others. Indeed, Priestley's use of light symbolism in 'He moves nearer a light...she crosses to him.' depicts Sheila moving closer to the light, perhaps showing how she will accept her responsibility with honesty. Once the Inspector is proven as a fake, Sheila shows that she has been genuinely changed by the Inspector's lesson, telling her parents that they are 'beginning to pretend all over again.' Priestley juxtaposes her acceptance of blame with her parents' determination to escape their responsibility. Priestley intended to promote the idea of a socialist society and demonstrates through his characterisation of Sheila, that it will be the younger members of society who have the ability to create the most change.
  • Question 8

For the highest marks in the exam, it is also important to analyse the structural features of the play.

 

What is the significance of the following quotation at the end of the play?

 

"Mr Birling: That was the police. A girl has just died - on her way to the infirmary - after swallowing some disinfectant. And a police inspector is on his way here - to ask some - questions."

 

Click on all of the accurate analytical comments below.

CORRECT ANSWER
The repetitive structure where Inspector Goole is discovered as fake and then time almost repeats with another Inspector arriving is used as a structural device by Priestley to show how people have a chance to learn, change and begin again with improved social values
Priestley's use of a fragmented sentence structure in the quotation shows that Mr Birling is shaken and worried. He had shown relief and celebrated the discovery of the fake Inspector but here we get the sense that he knows that because he failed to learn his lesson, he will now be punished
Priestley ends with this quotation to create an ambiguous conclusion to the play, suggest to his audience that they are now in control of what happens. They can return to the corrupt capitalist values of Edwardian society or move forward embracing their social responsibility
EDDIE SAYS
Did you find three? When analysing the writer's craft, for the highest marks in the exam it's really important to analyse structural devices as well as language. Here we have explored the idea of time repeating in the structure of the play, the ambiguous ending and considered the sentence structure in the quotation also. Think about what other structural devices you could analyse in the play to impress the examiner! So, the characters had time to change after Inspector Goole leaves - the older generation and Gerald seem unchanged. The announcement of another police inspector at the end sees time repeating, perhaps giving the characters another opportunity to change their ways and accept their responsibility. Does Priestley suggest it's never too late to change or does he show that they'll now be punished? The ambiguous ending leaves the audience with these thoughts and the power is their hands. Will they accept the socialist message and their own social responsibility or are they happy for society to return to the immorality and corruption Priestley has portrayed in the play?
  • Question 9

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 makes a distinction between the younger and older generation in these quotations. He 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 and to show how blind those caught up in their capitalist attitudes were to the effect of their actions on others.
  • 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.

 

The following question is worded in order to encourage you to show evaluation - try to write 3 paragraphs and then a concluding paragraph where you write an evaluative summary to answer the 'To what extent...?' part. Here you should give your personal response!

 

Task: To what extent is Eric the most punishable in the play?

 

Try to write 3 paragraphs.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
A paragraph might look something like this: Priestley uses Eric to demonstrate that even though his actions might be the most punishable in a criminal sense, the immoral actions of his family may have more serious consequences. After all, at the end of the play Eric is shown to accept his part in the blame. His use of the adjective 'hellish' to describe his behaviour shows that he understands how terribly he has acted. The use of the adverb 'unhappily' in the stage directions also allows Priestley to highlight how genuinely sad he is when he says 'My God - I'm not likely to forget.' Priestley also shows how ashamed Eric is of his parents' attitude and unwillingness to accept their part of the blame and uses the rhetorical question 'This girl's still dead, isn't she?' to stress that he understands that the Inspector being fake bears no relevance, it is the consequences of their actions which is the most important aspect of the lesson. Priestley shows Eric to be truly changed at the end of the play, allowing him to show that the younger generation in 1945/6 would be the ones to pave the way towards a more socialist society that would embrace their social responsibility.
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