How does Priestley present the character of Gerald?
Gerald Croft, son of wealthy business owners Mr and Mrs Croft, has been engaged to Sheila Birling as a business deal rather than a relationship based on love. The engagement seems as though it is only based on status and wealth as Sheila screams with delight as Gerald shows her the diamond ring, she replies by saying ‘Now I really feel engaged’, this presents to the reader how the Birling family are not interested in making family ties based on love but on how high in status a person is or how much wealth they have. This is also explained further in the stagecraft and setting as the play is set in one room only, suggesting how the family is seen as being all united and all happy at first, but Priestley’s use of pink light to the gradual change to brighter, harder colours as the Inspector arrives, is a symbol of how Priestley builds up tension, he does this so that the reader can sense that there is going to be something wrong, and uses a hint of dramatic irony as the audience knows that there has been a lot of events happening that the people of 1912 didn’t know were going to happen.
The Character of Gerald has a mind-set based on social status; he regards people of higher class to be more important to him and more humanlike than the lower class. When the Inspector is questioning Gerald about his relationship with Eva Smith, he tells Sheila to go away as ‘It’s bound to be unpleasant and disturbing’; this illustrates how Gerald sees Sheila in a different light to Eva. Eva Smith was of a poor background so he didn’t mind ruining her life, this presents his hypocrisy as compared to how he is with Sheila, who is from a rather rich background, he didn’t upset Sheila as he knows she is precious because of her family business, he could not afford to lose a business deal. Priestley does this to show the audience that the ruling class is immoral with no value of the lower class. he saw Eva in the bar and she was lonely and seemed as though she had nothing so he took advantage of her gender and her vulnerability to make her his ‘mistress’, this language shows how the upper class doesn’t regard the women of the lower class to be humanlike, instead they are shown to be animalistic and can be easily manipulated. He kept Eva in the spare house that he had gained from his friend for free and kept her there to ‘keep her away from all the tension she was facing’, he saw great advantage in her being there because he knew he was getting sex for free and he didn’t even have to pay for her being there, then later broke his heart which presents how much value he gave her. He displays his views about the idea of socialism and why socialism is better than capitalism through angering the audience by using Gerald’s hypocrisy towards the different kinds of women. His actions were immoral and Priestley uses this to show the reader that the upper class had the authority to do anything they wished without getting caught.
On the other hand, Priestley shows the nicer, more generous side of Gerald through his relationship with Eva. In the beginning of the play when he first met her, the Inspector makes Gerald confess what he had done to Eva and in return Gerald replied ‘I didn’t like the idea of her going back to the Palace bar. I didn’t ask for anything in return’, the use of repetition emphasises the point that he is putting across towards the Inspector, Priestley does this to show the audience how Gerald can be nice too; it is not only the bad side of him that is presented. However, the fact that Gerald had a deep sense of remorse as he hears about her death reflects how strongly he felt for her, this could also be thought provoking for the reader as the reader comes to think why Gerald then chose to marry Sheila if he genuinely loved Eva, Priestley is being a humanist philosopher and is presenting the idea of socialism to the reader once again. This could be included by Priestley because he wanted to show his audience that there are some humane people that are considerate towards others, and by the inspector he portrays his socialist views and makes the readers have hope for the people to change.
Moreover, the character of Gerald is shown to be resistant to change as he wants to prove that the girl is not real, he agrees with Mr Birling and says at the end of the play ‘Even then, that may have been all nonsense’, he doesn’t want to admit to himself that they contributed to the death of Eva / Daisy. He dismisses the thought of her dying and the fact that he has helped led a girl to commit suicide by diverting the attention from the girl onto his and Sheila’s engagement by saying ‘what about the ring’, this shows how he is selfish and only cares about himself and his own purposes, Priestley does this to present the ideology of the high class and what they feel about the lower class and this is the main reason why there is no change happening in society, Gerald was celebrating the fact that the inspector was ‘non-existent’ rather than learning from their mistakes, which is what Sheila and Eric learned to do. Priestley uses the character of Gerald to present to the reader that there should be hope for change one day if everyone comes learns from their mistakes, maybe that way there would be no mistakes caused by people and if people were more socialist in 1912, there would not have been a second world war.
In addition to this, Gerald is given a very high position by Mr Birling and his family and Mr Birling disregards the fact that Gerald had an affair and broke his daughter’s heart because Gerald is of a more wealthy background than the Birling’s are, and as Sheila asks him what he did in the Summer, Mrs Birling told Sheila that she has to put up with it and that she’ll ‘have to get used to it, just as Mrs B did’, Mrs Birling understands the lengths that have to be gone through to achieve social status because she must have been put through it too with Mr Birling, and Mrs B knows that Gerald may have been with another woman but doesn’t mention it as they needed this tie to be made between Sheila and Gerald, in order to raise their social status. The acts of Gerald are diminished compared to Eric as Eric’s actions were made public, and he has brought the family name to shame as the people will find out and Mr and Mrs B were in danger of being made fun of in public. Priestley uses language such as ‘Well I’m ashamed of you’, used by,Mrs B to show the audience that the only people that the older generation are ashamed of are the people that are showing hope of changing, this makes the reader hate Mrs B and the whole of the older generation that are showing no signs of change, providing the audience with thoughts rushing through their minds about why they should actually change to avoid making mistakes.
To conclude, the character of Gerald is used as a device by Priestley to show the audience that the higher class is very stubborn, resistant to change and holds very little hope of becoming socialist. He uses the Inspector to portray his message about socialism by being the voice of the Inspector, Priestley uses deliberate language to portray how he is a firm Christian and how he believes that everyone should be one body and help each other and uses the character of Gerald and Mr Birling as people in high social ranks to present the views of the higher class.
What grade would this get? - AQA Eng Lit Unit 1
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- 23-05-2016 17:50
I'd probably give this answer a band 4, it would have the potential to get higher with more detailed language analysis.Last edited by emmald583; 23-05-2016 at 17:52.