An Inspector Calls – Key Quotations and Evaluation

“You’re squiffy” – Sheila to Eric (Act 1)
• Shows Eric/ Sheila’s brother/ sister relationship.
• Colloquial language set period.
• Shows Eric drinks too much.

“I speak as a hard-headed business man.” (Act 1)
• Shows Mr Birling is hard-hearted.
• Shows pride in his hard-won success.

“Unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable.” Mr Birling (Act 1)
• Dramatic irony – audience knows something the characters don’t.
• Titanic is a metaphor for the family and its privileged position.

“We really must stop these silly pretences.” Sheila to Mrs Birling (Act 2)
• Sheila understands the Inspector’s message.
• Shows a division growing between Sheila and her mother.
• Shows that Sheila understands the need to stop lying. (Key theme)

“Girls of that class.” Mrs Birling to the Inspector (Act 2)
• Shows Mrs Birling thinks she is socially and morally superior.
• Almost as though the poor are by definition squalid and worthless.
• Emphasis on “that” shows her disgust in the working class.

“She was very pretty – soft brown hair and big dark eyes.” Gerald (Act 2)
• Gerald’s language stresses the difference between Eva and “women of the town” who he calls “hard-eyed” and “dough-faced”.
• By stressing the positive aspects of Eva, it makes her mistreatment seem even more cruel.

“You’re not the kind of father a chap could go to when he’s in trouble.” Eric (Act 2)
• The Birlings are not only hard-hearted towards the working class, but they are also inadequate parents.
• Birling says his son has been spoilt, and he is more concerned with covering up Eric’s wrongdoings so to avoid a social scandal.

“We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other.” The Inspector (Act 3)
• The core message of the Inspector and the play.
• Directly contrasts with Birling’s message of ‘every man for himself’.
• The message applies to all the characters and the audience.

“Everything’s all right now, Sheila.” Gerald to Sheila (Act 3)
• This shows Gerald has not understood the message.
• He cannot see that Sheila has been changed by the revelations.
• He offers Sheila the ring, showing how complacent he is.

“Each of you helped to kill her.” The Inspector (Act 3)
• The Inspector sums up, showing that the morally neglectful actions of the upper class family have condemned a working class girl to her death.
• Nobody in the family is without blame.

“Look Inspector, I’d give thousands…” Birling to the Inspector (Act 3)
• Birling wouldn’t pay Eva Smith an extra two shillings and sixpence but now offers thousands.
• The offer is meaningless because it is not possible to save Eva now.
• It shows Birling thinks he can solve everything with money.

“We are responsible for each other.” The Inspector (Act 3)
• Goole stresses that it is not enough just to keep to a set of accepted manners.
• We must all behave morally.
• This would have extra resonance before the Second World War – we cannot stand by and let fascism murder millions.

“Look at the way he talked to me…” Birling (Act 3)
• Shows that Birling feels his social status entitles him to different treatment.

“By Jingo! A fake!”
“How do you know it’s the same girl?”
• The Birlings are so desperate to believe their own innocence that they are willing to believe a highly unlikely set of coincidences.

“That doesn’t matter to me.” Eric (Act 3)
• The theories of innocence that Geralnd and Birling are concocting do not take away the fact that Eric feels guilty for his actions.
• He is not willing to bury his head in the sand and pretend he has done nothing wrong.

“I suppose we’re all nice people now.” Sheila (Act 3)
• Sheila is bitter about her family’s reaction.
• She is appalled that they think they have done nothing wrong simply because they think the girl is not dead.
• She wants them to acknowledge that they have behaved appallingly.

“That was the police. A girl has just died – on her way to the infirmary.”
• The twist in the tale.
• Mr and Mrs Birling, and Gerald, must face the reality of their actions.
• Their denial is destroyed.

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