This GCSE English Literature quiz looks at character in An Inspector Calls by JB Priestley.
J. B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls has only seven characters: Inspector Goole, Mr Birling, Mrs Birling, Sheila Birling, Eric Birling, Gerald Croft and Edna, who works in the family home. Eva Smith, a woman whose death is the catalyst for the events of the play, overshadows the drama without ever appearing. All that we learn of her is through the questioning of the Inspector and the recollections of others. In fact, she is not necessarily one person, but instead an amalgamation of the many young women with whom the family have come into contact.
Like Eva, the Birlings are symbolic of other members of their class: Mr Birling stands for wealthy bosses and Mrs Birling for wealthy, under-occupied women who wield influence through charity.
Sheila and Eric represent the young members of their class who are expected to follow in their parents' footsteps but are at the same time more open to change. Gerald, who is older than the two younger Birlings, seems firmly set on becoming like the older generation. Edna fulfils a practical role in announcing the Inspector and answering the door. How does the family's attitude to Edna shed light on their attitudes to the working class?
In this play, the characters are not merely symbolic, however, but are also shown to be individuals. Does this statement apply to the Inspector himself? Do you consider him as a character, or as representative of something abstract, such as "conscience", or "justice"?
Character is extremely important in drama because it is one of the most significant ways through which the audience understands the text. See how well you understand the characters in An Inspector Calls by answering the questions below.
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