An Inspector Calls is a play scripted by JB Priestly that focuses on relevant themes to the time it was set - 1912. the post-war condition of writing allowed Priestly to include and explore developing themes of the time; such as the social class gap and the socialist vs capitalist views. The plot focuses on the Birling family during a celebration of their daughter's (Sheila) engagement to the son of their rivaling company, Gerald Croft of Crofts Limited. Their dinner is disturbed by an inspector that inspects each character and raises a discussion of important themes while doing so. When writing about Gerald, Priestly uses him as a metaphor for the change during that era. In the description of characters, Gerald is written to be a “well-bred-young-man-about-town”.
This quote is vital in allowing the reader to picture the kind of character Gerald is. “Well-bred” implies that he comes from old money and a pedigree family, from which we can conclude that he is fashionable and ritzy. “Man-about-town” is a representation of him having a reputation with the women around the town. This part of the quote makes the reader/audience question Geralds loyalty and devotion toward Shelia. Here, priestly uses foreshadowing to represent the type of person Gerald is. During the celebration, when Arthur makes a speech on Sheila and Gerald's future wedding, he ends it with “for lower costs and higher prices”, to which Gerald replies with “hear, hear!’. Gerald's clear agreement with Arthurs speech shows that he is in favor of the capitalist party - like Arthur.
Hinting that Gerald may not be the best of characters, Priestly shows that Gerald and Arthur are more excited about a business deal than a wedding. This is crucial information in showing Geralds priorities and views. He demonstrates a lack of feeling towards sheila, giving the audience a negative idea of greed from the capitalist party. However, in act 2, the General is shown to be a kind man. When talking about daisy, he says “girl saw me looking at her and then have me a glance that was nothing less than a cry for help”. Here Gerald demonstrates that unlike the other birlings’ he had good intentions and was willing to help, giving the audience hope for a chance of change from the capitalist party to change and grow in their actions, proven by the younger characters.
Priestly presents goals this way as a mid-point for all the characters, and he can easily be tipped onto a different side. Contrary to that, Gerald once again conveys capitalists negatively when he says “ I don't come into this suicide business”. Before he even got the chance to listen to what he might've had to do with Eva's death. He arrogantly denies any potential bad actions from himself, demonstrating his infatuation with public image. The use of the word “business” negatively impacts the audience as Gerald simply an important matter such as suicide into a greed-ridden business. This once again portrays capitalists as money-hungry tyrants that only care for themselves. Gerald repeatedly addresses serious life matters as potential business endeavors.
He says “I didn't install her there to make love to her”. Talking about Eva and using the word “install” objectifies Eva and presents her to be thought of as equipment for Gerald to be used for his own desires. However, unlike eric, Gerald had consent. The quote illustrates Gerald positively on the surface, but despite that, when looked at in detail, he can see the clear dehumanization of Eva from Gerald. “To make love to her” has negative connotations and suggests that Gerald thinks that was all daisy was good for. Linking to the previous point of Geralds obsession with public image, Gerald says ‘i hate those hard-eyed dough-faced women’ when describing the women at the palace var. Gerald is demonstrated to think less of the lower class here by purely judging the women by how they look.
This quote is essential in showing that Gerald has an unhealthy obsession with outer appearance and therefore public image. We know from previous quotes that he is a fashionable man and image is important to him. He dehumanizes the ladies by purely judging them based on looks - which is a result of the exploitation committed to them by people of the same caliber as Gerald. Priestly uses the word “hate” to describe Geralds dislike towards the ladies, which have done nothing to him. This depicts Gerald pessimistically as he is not only ignorant of their situation but dismissive of their situation. Hypocrisy can also be conducted from this quote.
Putting himself above the ladies and the men at the bar, Gerald shows clear prejudiced opinions towards them - yet he is just like the men, and takes Eva home. His ideology of class superiority allows him to view the people in the bar as less than. However, Gerald had no differences from the men, and Eva home because she was pretty- not because she was a prostitute. Regardless, gold is perspicacious in not mixing with the lower class, in addition to being adamant on his antipathy towards them- which is ironic because he does exactly that. His intentions with Eva were good, to begin with, but are later diluted to suit his needs through her profession.
Priestly writes Gerald this way to depict capitalists cynically to the audience- having a negative effect on their opinion of capitalism- similar to propaganda. Previous to that, Gerald shows hypocrisy again, but with sheila this time. After the inspector sheilas relation to the suicide- he is quick to judge and shame her. She says (to Gerald) “you've made up your mind, I must obviously be a self-vindictive creature”. Sheila senses Gerald's disappointment with her.
This is hypocritical because Gerald puts himself on a pedestal in comparison to others in a lower social ranking than him. Here he is quick to judge sheila and think less of her- yet he defended Mr birling for firing her and insisted in only wanting the best for sheila. Here the audience would feel pity for the characters below herald as they are being prejudiced against, even though he is the same. This point links to the theme of the social gap and gender roles as it shows the difference in the price of your actions depending on your role and importance in society.
Priestly shows Gerald to be different from the older generation in the quote “as I'm rather more- upset by this business than I probably appear to be”. Gerald shows remorse and regrets towards his action- unlike Mr and Mrs birling. We can deduct this because he had good intentions with Eva, to begin with, even if that meant betraying sheila in the process. Up until now, Gerald was portrayed as an unlikeable, selfish, and hypocritical character by priestly to metaphorically symbolize the young capitalist party. Here we see a change in Gerald making him more like the younger generation. However this ould be perceived differently.
The pauses in his speech could be forced, or as spaces to think of what to say next. Instead of pausing because of the disbelief or sadness his feeling, he could be trying to make himself look like a better character than the rest of the characters. This would make sense as we know Gerald always wants to appear of higher and better standing than everyone else. Although this would also mean that Gerald's feelings towards Eva and the suicide itself are false, proving that he only cares about what people were to think and say - and how it would affect his reputation. When the inspector leaves and Gerald is back from his walk, he says “we’ve no proof it was the same photograph and therefore no proof it was the same girl”.
Priestly writes this part with repetition to show that Gerald still identifies with the older generation. Gerald Gerald conveys a lack of remorse and is only persistent on trying to prove the case isn't true, rather than focusing on his actions and what consequences follow. The repetition also hints at arrogance from Gerald, once again showing that he thinks he’s better than others. Gerald is callous to the inspector's news and pays no attention to what he’s done once he discovers that there may not be a chance of it getting out to the public. Later on when the inspector was discovered to not be real, Gerald comforts sheila by saying “(smiling) everything alright now sheila”, after the news of the suicide was thought to be false. Geralds remorse vanishes and turns into pure satisfaction- shown by priestlys inclusion of stage direction.
This is a clear indication of Gerald ultimately only caring about what others were to think of him- mirroring Arthur birling. Priestly writes Gerald as a character in between characters to represent how easy it is for society to sway the wrong way, conveying to the audience that they should be wary of their actions and beliefs. To conclude, from the play we can conduct that Gerald is a metaphor for the change happening in society during the time, and how easy it was for people during that time, and how easy it was for people to change their views and opinions.
We know that Gerald has good intentions, to begin with, but are later withered by his own desires and needs. It's clear that Gerald has ties to eric and sheila by not only being close in age, but also that he shows that he’s not a completely ruthless person, but it is more evidence that he is more connected to the older generation in terms of political views and feelings toward the suicide and the public consequences that may follow. Priestly writes Gerald in such a way where the audience cannot completely decide whether he is a good or bad character, but somewhere right in the middle.