Priestly uses Mrs. Birling’s character to represent snobby rich people of the era and makes use of language, form and structure to develop her character throughout the course of Act II.
Mrs. Birling, right off the back, gives the audience an impression of ‘a classic snob’. She thinks she is morally and socially superior and tries to show this on several occasions. ‘I don’t suppose for a moment that we can understand why the girl committed suicide. Girls of that class-’, ‘As if a girl of that sort would refuse money.’ She is very well-aware of the differences between social classes. Another example of this, although not in Act II, is when she gets irritated at Mr. Birling for praising the cook which for her is probably a social mistake.…show more content… Technically, Sheila is old enough to have an opinion, she is an adult but Mrs. Birling patronizes her on several occasions. 'Please don't contradict me like that' ‘I’m talking to the inspector now if you don’t mind’ ‘...I think you must go to bed and forget this absurd business…’Mrs. Birling treats Sheila like a child and regards the gory death of Eva Smith as ‘absurd business’.
She tries to intimidate the Inspector. ‘You know of course that my husband was lord Mayor only two years ago and that he’s still a magistrate.’ This is a way for her to flaunt her social status to the Inspector. Note that she says this while, as described in the stage directions, ‘grandly, crosses and sits [on the] armchair [by the] above fireplace’.
Mrs. Birling tries to be superior but is in fact very shallow and naive; she denies the things she doesn’t want to believe. For example, Eric’s drinking problem, “Inspector: (cutting in) isn't he used to drinking? Mrs Birling: No, of course not. He's only a boy. Inspector: No, he's a young man. And some young men drink far too much. Sheila: And Eric's one of them. Mrs Birling: (very sharply) Sheila!” Even the Inspector sees this trait of Mrs. Birling, ‘Inspector: (taking back the photograph) you recognize her? Mrs Birling: No. why should I? Inspector: of course she might have changed lately, but I can't believe she could have changed so much. Mrs Birling: I don't understand…show more content… She thinks that the father of a child should be responsible for the welfare of the child, regardless of the circumstances. ‘Mrs Birling: then he'd be entirely responsible – because the girl wouldn't have come to us, and have been refused assistance, if it hadn't been for him-’ ‘I discovered that she knew who the father was, she was quite certain about that, and so I told her it was her business to make him responsible. If he refused to marry her – and in my opinion he ought to be compelled to – then he must at least support her. ‘This also emphasizes her cold nature, she didn’t care that Eva was pregnant, she was not empathetic with a fellow woman despite knowing how tender and sensitive the state of being pregnant