Priestly portrays women as inferior compared to men. Women are portrayed as toys that are played with, used and then thrown away. He portrays how upper class women are differently treated to working class women. Priestly shows that the treatment of working class women is degrading. They were considered as mere decorations in the eyes of men. All this is shown through his various uses of consequential quotes with different characters. Throughout the play, younger women challenge the stereotypes they are chained to. Women are portrayed as delicate, fragile and obedient to their husbands or fathers. There are many ways that women are presented, from age, class etc. But, throughout into the play women are portrayed to be strong –willed and demonstrate flair and resilience. Priestly presents women as important messages and life lessons through the act.
Priestley includes a strong range of female characters in An Inspector calls from Mrs.Birling , through Sheila to Eva Smith , showing that he wanted to convey women from all types of social backgrounds.
Mr. Birling states that “She’d had a lot to say – far too much – so she had to go” about Eva smith. Something such as freedom of speech was not taken seriously when it came to women. Men thought it was something that was not a necessity for women. Priestley portrays the lack of importance given to women. In certain areas of the play Mr/Mrs.Birling devalues their own daughter’s freedom of speech by “cutting in” when Sheila is trying to make a point. Mr. Birling shows that he does not think Sheila as capable to handle the inspector and wants to try and “settle it sensibly for you ” which he does not offer to do for Gerald or Eric.
Priestly cries out to the audience using the quote “I thought it would do us all a bit of good if we tried to put ourselves in the place of these young women”. This shows that priestly is trying to portray how women have always had the right to be equal and it is in fact difficult to live their life. “It would do us all a bit of good” this phrase portrays that if we try and understand women we will understand the difficulty they fight through every day. Women are portrayed as understandable beings those deserve to be understood.
Priestley might have made Mrs.Birling a woman to portray that it wasn’t just men responsible for sexism. Women and mothers are stereotypically kind and caring. Mrs Birling turns out to be neither of those things. Women are seen as “emotional” or “hysterical” but, Mrs Birling turns out to be the exact opposite. She portrays the hypocrisy of the upper classes and shows no remorse in her cruel treatment of Eva Smith. Priestley presents her in an absurd manner. Mrs.Birling is described as “about fifty, rather cold being and her husband’s social superior”.She is portrayed as a woman of questionable character , the one and only of all the Birlings to strongly go against the Inspector’s attempts to make her realise her responsibilities. She has a lack of knowledge on how other people live and thinks that all classes behave/act in a certain way, this is shown in her snobbish comment “a girl of that sort” and in her utter unwillingness to believe that a lower class girl would refuse to take stolen money or marry a foolish young man responsible for her pregnancy. Priestley portrays how women from older generations have such narrow minds when it comes to such sensitive scenarios.
Sheila is portrayed as an immature and innocent young woman, a young woman with an absurd character; however this character develops as a series of events occur, into a mature and challenging woman. Sheila becomes frustrated at her parents and states that their “pretending things are just as they were before”. At this point that we can see the journey that
Sheila has made to being more sympathetic towards Eva Smith. Priestley portrays her as a woman who feels what she had done was wrong and unnecessary. Someone who understands the pain Eva smith was going through. Priestly is portraying through Sheila that the youth can change and accept responsibility whereas the older generation cannot.
Sheila accepted what she did was wrong regardless of the embarrassment while Mrs. Birling struggled to accept her mistakes. Sheila accepts that her actions impacted on Eva’s life and that she cannot disconnect her actions from the effects these have on others. She recognises and understands the Inspector’s message that they are all collectively responsible for all that happened.
She starts, in Act One, as “a pretty girl in her early twenties, very pleased with life and rather excited,” and her excited reaction to Gerald’s engagement ring shows that Sheila needed something such as a beautiful ring to feel “engaged”. She became comfortably settled in the economic and cultural traditions of her father. After she received the ring she had forgot all about Gerald’s absence “last summer” and showed no desire to investigate it. Priestly portrays how women were very easy to please and can be manipulated easily because, of the “role” they were taught to have in society. In addition whilst Gerald was confessing his affair with Daisy Renton he claims it was “inevitable” that she should become his mistress this shows a lack of respect for women in their own right and that they are objectified. There is a correlation between how women are treated by men.
Mr Birling saw Eva as just one of “several hundred young women” who worked at his factory. This shows that for him all of his workers are worth nothing. By stating “they keep changing” he shows that he did not really care if he dismissed Eva as she was just “cheap labour” to him. Therefore, by the victim of the play being a working class female, Priestley shows the vulnerability of women in those times, something that was socially acceptable. It was considered the “right thing to do”.
The phrase “pretty girl” is used repetitively in the play. Women were not described by their personality or talent but by their looks. Eva smith was described as a “girl” many times by the Birlings and this may convey how the birlings thought Eva was “immature”. She was not considered as anything more than just a “pretty girl”.
To conclude priestly portrays Women not only as emotional but as strong-willed and passionate for their own gender. the bad way in which women, in a position similar to Eva Smith’s, were treated at that time by society, especially wealthy members of the public with high social statuses such as the Birlings. The play shows how some women were forced to beg charities for help to survive. He shows that age, class and looks were the crucial things that women were chained to. The personal responsibilities of each and everyone lead to the death of one.