Sheila Birling is in her early twenties, she is _‘very pleased with life and rather excited’. _It seems that she doesn’t have much responsibility with regards to work and family.

She has a very affluent lifestyle, because her family are wealthy and is able to enjoy many luxuries. Initially, Sheila is presented as an extremely spoilt and discourteous character as she uses the power of her surname to get her own way.

She is considered to be a_ ‘pretty girl’ _and she knows it. This particular attribute could be regarded as her hermartia, as vanity is her fatal flaw. She is too concerned about how she looks and gets considerably jealous when others are prettier than her (especially if they are lower class).

As the play progresses, it is clear that Sheila is a malleable character and learns the importance of needing to change her personality. She reflects socialist and feminist ideas, by deciding that she will not adopt her parents’ thinking.

What does Sheila ask about the victim?
What did Sheila do the victim? Why?
Your answer should include: Sacked / Jealous / Dismissed


Sheila is the daughter of Mr and Mrs Birling. Her mother is from a wealthy Middle Class family and her father is factory owner who is intent on climbing the social ladder.

She is close to her father who seems to want to protect her from being involved with the tragic affair. Whereas, her mother tends to correct and berate her attitudes, behaviours and speech.

There is a generation gap between Mrs Birling and her daughter which results in many instances of conflict. When told to be accepting of her fiancé’s habits, she responds by saying, ‘I don’t believe I will’.

There are expressions of sibling rivalry between Eric and Sheila. They have banter during the meal and she calls him ‘squiffy’, _which she later confirms to be a serious drink problem. During the toasts, he reveals that his sister has, ‘got a nasty temper sometimes’_.

The play begins with the celebratory dinner for Gerald and Sheila who are announcing their engagement. Gerald is the son of a prominent Aristocratic, Sir George Croft, who owns a company that is much more profitable than the Birling’s.

Despite Sheila’s clear excitement over her ring, she does raise concerns about the fidelity of her soon-to-be husband. In a _‘half-serious, half-playful’ _manner, she makes reference to _‘all last summer when you never came near me’ _implying that she is suspicious about Gerald’s so-called business ventures.

Social Standing

Sheila Birling is mostly concerned about her appearance and her social status in the community. Whilst shopping in Milwards, she uses the power of her surname to get Eva Smith sacked from her job.

Once she is married to Gerald, she will climb the social ladder, because his parents are Aristocrats. Therefore, she will be even more influential in the community, because everyone will know who she is.


Sheila Birling’s character is extremely important in the outworking of the play. First, she was introduced as a vain, vindictive and spoilt young woman. She is excited to be receiving the engagement ring that Gerald wants her to have and shows this off to her family.

In Act One, during the Inspector’s interrogation, it is revealed that she demanded that Eva Smith be dismissed from her job at Milwards, because of jealousy. She hated the fact that someone was prettier than her and especially someone of a lower social standing than herself.

As the play develops there are remarkable changes in Sheila’s character. She assumes the role of conscience and constantly reminds her parents of their appalling contribution to the victim’s demise. She is anguished with the knowledge that her actions resulted in a tragic course for Eva and is committed to changing her ways in the future.

Sheila is a special character, because she is chosen as a vehicle to understand the inspector and relay her findings back to the family. The Inspector is successful in his visit, because she is ‘impressionable’; _she is willing to learn a lesson in how to treat others. Along with her brother, Sheila takes on socialist ideas and defiantly stands in opposition to her parents. She is disturbed that they return to their old ways, _‘you don’t seem to have learnt anything’.

How does Sheila feel at the end of the play?
Your answer should include: Disturbed / Upset / Anguished / Socialist