End of Act 2

  • She blames the father and thereby trying to remove blame from herself;
  • She believes her responsibility is less serious than that of other members of her family but, ironically, the baby makes it more so;
  • Note her evasive short and even monosyllabic answers e.g. ‘possibly’;
  • Her long self defensive and self justifying speeches.
  • Her lack of understanding of son’s lifestyle and problems;
  • Her insistence on denying responsibility leads to even more serious retribution;
  • Her attitude is that Eva has: ‘ridiculous airs’; ‘impudence’;
  • Ironically, Sheila says they ‘now have no reason to put on ridiculous airs’;
  • She belittles Eva’s ability to have feelings and values: ‘fine feelings’ is ironic;
  • She did not like Eva’s ‘manner’ and admits to being ‘prejudiced’ against her.
  • Structural changes of events to reveals Mrs Birling’s full involvement;
  • irony e.g. the respectable appearance of the family and the dysfunctional actuality of it;
  • dramatic irony e.g. we know that Eric is the father when Mrs Birling does not;
  • the way characters address each other – their use of language;
  • Contrasts of a character’s behaviour, between characters, of different feelings, of delivery of lines, of attitude, between generations etc
  • Identify feelings such as fear and pity, beliefs such as being in the right, despair etc
  • Consider where the greatest dramatic impact is (e.g. Eric’s emotive words about killing? Sheila’s desperate outburst?).

The Inspector makes yet another valiant effort at making Mrs Birling face up to what she has done and feel remorse, yet he only seems to make an impression on Sheila who cannot take any more guilt: ‘Oh – horrible – horrible’.  Sheila has already faced up to her part in the death of Eva and feels immense remorse.  There is great dramatic irony here as Sheila, who has been treated as the young daughter who needs to be protected, is the most mature of the family with regard to her depth of feelings.

Mrs Birling is portrayed as a hypocrite as the scene continues.  She tries to take the blame from herself: ‘It wasn’t I who had her turned out of her employment’.  She has no compunction in blaming anyone other than herself, even if it means accusing her own family.  After showing the ridiculously selfish side of herself, Mrs Birling then has the cheek to deny Eva any sense of self worth.  She refuses to admit that the girl would have any morals or values, just because she is of a lower class than Mrs Birling herself.  Poor Eva is a victim.

 The final part of the extract is particularly dramatic as Mrs Birling builds up the blame onto the father of the child and the dramatic irony that the audience begin to realise that the father is Eric reveals Mrs Birling in her true light as being vindictive and ruthless..    She, ironically, believes that by blaming the father she is winning over the Inspector in the battle for control.  She thinks he is yielding when he says that he is ‘glad to hear it’ but the audience knows better.   Sheila’s interruption which is an attempt to stop her mother suddenly  increases the tension because it becomes even more clear that she is falling into a trap.  The audience has begun to trust Sheila’s responses as being sensitive to the Inspector’s purpose of exposing all forms of avoidance of responsibility.


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