Mr. Birling – It reflects his capitalist attitudes towards work and looking out for others’ well-being. He represents the attitude that Priestley wishes to challenge and change in 1940s post war Britain.
Mr. Birling – Setting the play in 1912, thirty two year prior to writing it, allows Priestley to use dramatic irony to highlight Birling’s poor judgement, and consequently present capitalism in a negative light.
Sheila – Here Sheila is challenging her parents refusal to accept any responsibility for their actions. It is almost as if the entire evening’s events hadn’t happened at all. By contrast, it presents Sheila, a member of the younger generation, as an individual prepared to change their ways, to help create a fairer society for all, offering hope for the future.
The Inspector – As Priestley’s mouthpiece on stage, this represents Priestley’s strong socialist views that we are all responsible for each other, that we should look out for one another.
Eric – Aligning himself with his sister and the younger generation by accepting responsibility for his role in the death of Eva Smith.
Sheila – Reflecting the dawning realisation in Sheila as to the nature of her father’s attitude towards the workers in his factory. She is appalled at the way they are treated and challenges her father to change his ways.
Mrs. Birling – Refusing to accept any responsibility herself for the death of Eva Smith, she instead points the finger to the father of the unborn child. Priestley uses dramatic irony here as at this point the audience is aware of something that Mrs. Birling is not; that it is her own son, Eric, who is the father of the child.
Mr. Birling – Defending his decision to sack Eva Smith as a troublemaker for asking for a pay rise, whilst conveying his own capitalist ideals that making as much money as possible is the most important facet of business.
The Inspector – In a final speech to the family, and the audience, The Inspector suggests that Eva Smith is representative of all working class people at this time who all deserve to be treated better by the ruling classes.
Mrs. Birling – This reflects her attitude towards the lower classes, that they are of a lower moral standing.