How does Priestley present the theme of gender in An Inspector Calls? (The…
How does Priestley present the theme of gender in An Inspector Calls?
The women and men start out as stereotypes. A stereotype is an idea you might have about people before you really know them. It is usually based on things like their sex, age and class.
They are preoccupied with work and public affairs, eg 'the miners came out on strike'.
Gerald feels it is his duty to rescue Eva from the womanising Alderman Meggarty.
Gerald is allowed to sleep around before his marriage, however Sheila isn't. Aurthur says that even in his day they 'broke out and had a bit of fun sometimes'. There are different rules for men and women.
They are supposed to be obsessed with pretty clothes, shopping and weddings - Sheila gazes adoringly at her ring and asks 'Is it the one you wanted me to have'?
They are protected against 'unpleasant and disturbing' things.
Sheila gets Eva sacked because of pride, vanity and jealousy - stereotypical female traits in the play.
Sheila is accused of being hysterical - a state often associated with women at the time.
The young women challenge the stereotypes
Eva and Sheila try to rebel and break out of the roles that society has given them.
Eva questioned the decision of her boss instead of quietly accepting it.
Instead of relying on a man to save her, Eva refused to accept Eric's stolen money.
Sheila interrupts and challenges everyone at different times, apart from the Inspector.
By the end the stereotypes are turned upside down
As the play develops Birling, Gerald and Eric get weaker while Sheila gets stronger. Priestley does this to challenge the audience's view of women at the time.
Gerald is rejected by Sheila and Eric is revealed to be nervous and lazy, with a drinking problem. Birling suffers the most, the whole night has slowly undermined his authority. He is 'panic-stricken' as he speaks the final line - a very different man from the one at the beginning.
Sheila starts stating her own opinions, not those she is supposed to have. 'That's what's important - and not whether a man is a police inspector or not'. She has learnt to think for herself.