Age versus Youth

Mr and Mrs Birling always make reference to their children being youths. They imply that as they are young, they are therefore too inexperienced to have valid opinions. There is a definite generation gap within the family which grows, as the play develops.

__Mr Birling: __‘More money to spend and time to spare than I had when I was Eric’s age’

__Mr Birling: __‘But take my word for it, you youngsters – and I’ve learnt in the good hard school of experience…’ (Act One)

__Inspector: __‘Like a lot of these young women who get into various kinds of trouble…’ (Act One)

__Inspector: __‘we often do on the young ones. They’re more impressionable’ (Act Two)

__Mrs Birling: __‘She said that the father was only a youngster – silly and wild and drinking too much’ (Act Two)

__Mrs Birling: __‘I blame the young man… some drunken young idler, then that’s all the more reason why he shouldn’t escape.’ (Act Two)

__Birling: __‘you hysterical young fool – get back’ (Act Three)

__Birling: __‘Just remember your own position, young man’ (Act Three)

__Birling: __‘the famous younger generation who know it all. And they can’t even take a joke-’ (Act Three)

What causes a divide within the family?
Your answer should include: Age / Generation / Youth


Social class was significant in the Georgian era. The upper-classes had no respect for the working class. They saw them as a vehicle to increase their own prosperity and pleasure. Lower-class people were abused by those with a status; emotionally, physically and financially.

__Mr Birling: __‘country-bread… working in one of our machine shops’ (Act One)

__Inspector: __‘few friends, lonely, half-starved, she was feeling desperate.’ (Act One)

__Inspector: __‘young women counting their pennies, in their dingy little back bedrooms.’ (Act One)

__Sheila: __‘she was very pretty and looked as if she could take care of herself’ (Act One)

__Mrs Birling: __‘I don’t suppose for a moment… Girls of that class-‘ (Act Two)

__Mrs Birling: __‘she said, he didn’t belong to her class’ (Act Two)


There was a major divide in equality between the sexes. It was believed that women were inferior to men. Women didn’t have rights, as their opinion didn’t count for anything. Men made all of the big decisions for their household.

__Mrs Birling: __‘When you’re married you’ll realise that men… sometimes have to spend nearly all their time and energy on their business.’ (Act One)

__Mrs Birling: __‘You’ll have to get used to that, just as I had.’

__Sheila: __‘I don’t believe I will. So you be careful’ (Act One)

__Eric: __‘talking about clothes again… Women are potty about ‘em.’ (Act One)

__Mr Birling: __‘you don’t know what some of these boys get up to nowadays.’ (Act One)

__Birling: __‘Eva Smith… had a lot to say – far too much – so she had to go.’ (Act One)

__Sheila: __‘these girls aren’t cheap labour – they’re people’ (Act One)

__Inspector: __‘you think young women ought to be protected again unpleasant and disturbing things?’ (Act Two)

__Inspector: __‘an organisation to which women in distress can appeal for help in various forms’ (Act Two)

How were women treated?
Your answer should include: Inequality / No rights

Status & Power

Affluent families were prominent figures in society. They could use their family name to gain privileges within the community. Also, the behaviour of an upper-class individual would often be excused just because they were wealthy.

__Mr Birling: __‘I told the girl to clear out, and she went.’ (Act One)

__Inspector: __‘so you used the power you had, as a daughter of a good customer and also of a man well known in the town’. (Act One)

__Gerald: __‘I insisted on Daisy moving into those rooms and I made her take some money’ (Act Two)

__Mrs Birling: __‘I used my influence to have it refused’ (Act Two)

__Mrs Birling: __‘you have no power to make me change my mind.’ (Act Two)

__Eric: __‘I was in that state when a chap easily turns nasty – and I threatened to make a row.’ (Act Three)

__Inspector: __‘You refused her even the pitiable little bit of organised charity you had in your power to grant her’ (Act Three)

Who used their power to abuse the victim?
Your answer should include: Mr Birling / Sheila / Gerald / Mrs Birling / Eric