An Inspector Calls – Quotations


“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)

  • Word choice emphasises lack of feeling.
  • Shows Mr Birling is hard-hearted.
  • Shows pride in his hard-won success.


“If you don’t come down hard on these people they’ll soon be asking for the earth!”

  • Birling uses exaggeration/ hyperbole to suggest the workers are asking for too much.
  • Wants to make the workers’ demands seem unreasonable.


“Unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable.” Mr Birling (Act 1)

  • Dramatic irony – audience knows something the characters don’t.
  • Arrogance of the wealthy – they think their wealth will last forever.
  • 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.
  • Characterises Sheila as the only character capable of seeing the truth.
  • 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. A snob.
  • 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 contrast 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)

  • Reveals the lack of love in the family.
  • 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)

  • Priestley’s address to the audience.
  • 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)

  • Shows Gerald as a static character.
  • 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)

  • Priestly uses a climax to emphasise that our actions have consequences.
  • 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)

  • Tone – shocked/ indignant.
  • 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?”

  • Colloquial language – particular to the upper class.
  • 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 Gerald 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)

  • Sarcastic tone.
  • 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.