Mrs Sybil Birling is described as being a, _‘cold woman’ _implying that she is not an easy character to like.
She has a lack of understanding of people and feels justified in looking down on lower class society, believing that they have different feelings and morals.
She is very judgemental about how women should behave in the family and in relationships.
Whilst being interrogated by the Inspector, she becomes particularly agitated and is very quick tempered. She considers the investigation to be _‘impertinent’ _and considers herself to be above reproach.
- How is Mrs Birling described in contrast to her husband?
- Your answer should include: Social / Socially / Superior
- Why did Mrs Birling refuse to help the victim?
- Your answer should include: Prejudice / Impersonated her / Called herself Mrs Birling
Sybil is married to Arthur Birling, a factory owner. It could be understood that she really loved her husband, despite being his ‘social superior’, because she didn’t marry a member of her own class.
During the engagement party, the couple’s seating position reflects a power struggle between them and could also imply that this conflict is having a strain on their marriage. She gets very frustrated with her husband’s inadequacies and constantly corrects his poor knowledge of social etiquette.
Mrs Birling is mother to two children; Sheila and Eric, who are both in their twenties. She coaches Sheila in life choices and attitudes, although her opinions are not always valued.
Mrs Birling appears to be happy for daughter and reminds her to be an accepting wife. She treats Eric as a baby but is completely ignorant to that fact that he is suffering emotionally.
Little is known about Mrs Birling’s family but the stage directions make it clear that she has come from a family that is wealthier than the one she has chosen to marry into.
Sybil Birling is mostly concerned about her high social status in the community. She is involved with organising events and is a prominent member on the Brumley charity committee.
Unfortunately, she allows the opinions of her contemporaries to affect her assignment rather than fulfilling her role as a compassionate charity worker.
Mrs Birling remains very arrogant throughout the play. She believes that the appearance of respectability is much more important than justice.
In Act One, she is presented as the matriarch, she is very demeaning and controls her family’s behaviour. She corrects her husband and children when they speak like common people. When she is faced with the Inspector she immediately takes offence and attempts to protect her family.
Although it is proven that Mrs Birling is the final contributor towards the girl’s death, she refuses to accept responsibility.
She has contempt for, ‘Girls of that class’. She believes that she was justified in refusing to offer the victim money and telling her to look for the father for support.
She shows some distress in Act Three, when the father is revealed and she realises that she had been condemning her own son. Plus, the fact her prejudice has resulted in the death of her first grandchild.
However, this is soon dispelled when the Inspector’s credibility is called into question.
At the end of the play, she claims that her family were foolish to believe the Inspector. She stands in complete contrast to her children who cannot believe her egotistical attitude to the whole affair.
- What is Mrs Birling like at the end of the play?
- Your answer should include: Egotistical / Confident