'An Inspector Calls' - Character Guide
The Inspector arrives at the Birling household to investigate the suicide of Eva Smith. He interrogates each family member and manages to put them at odds with each other. He drives the play with his questioning and selective revealing of evidence. It seems that he embodies the idea of 'socialism', making a number of speeches and comments that deal with equality and shared responsibility.
Mr Birling is the head of the Birling household. He is a hard-headed businessman whose views are entirely capitalist. He is also arrogant and selfish.
Mrs Birling is Mr Birling's wife, and his social superior. She is cold-hearted and seemingly unempathetic, being presented as a snob. She also denied Eva Smith's plea for help at her committee, seeing it has her 'duty' to do so.
Sheila is the daughter of Mr and Mrs Birling. She is in her twenties and is engaged to Gerald. Initially, she is shown to be naïve and childish. However, as the play progresses she becomes maturer and demonstrates assertiveness and intelligence.
Eric is the son of Mr and Mrs Birling. He is an insecure, shy character who has a drinking problem. It is revealed that Eric had an affair with Eva Smith, and that she was pregnant with his child when she died. He also stole money from Mr Birling's business to try and help Eva.
Gerald is about thirty and from an upper class family. He is engaged to Sheila. He is confident and charming, although he becomes evasive later on once details about his affair with Eva/Daisy emerge. He is eventually honest with Sheila about the affair.
EVA SMITH/DAISY RENTON
A lot of the information we get about Eva/Daisy is inferred from other characters, as we never meet her in the play. As a result of the actions of other characters, Eva/Daisy becomes more and more desperate, even changing her name in an attempt to get help. This results in her suicide, which is what brings the Inspector to the Birling household.
Edna works as the Birling's maid.