‘An Inspector Calls’:  Gerald Character Analysis (animated)

‘An Inspector Calls’: Gerald Character Analysis (animated)

Gerald Croft is Priestley’s tool to reveal
the flaws of the upper classes. He represents the aristocracy who in 1912 exploited the
working classes, especially working-class women like Eva Smith. For a moment in the
play, he appears to be sorry for his behaviour towards Eva, providing hope that the upper
classes can change and embrace Priestley’s message of social responsibility. At the end
of the play, however, he once again aligns himself with Mr Birling’s capitalist ideas,
conveying Priestley’s view that the upper classes will always be self-interested and
will never change. When we first meet Gerald Croft, Priestley
describes him in the introductory stage direction as an ‘easy, well-bred young man-about-town’.
Priestley’s use of the rule of three with the adjectives ‘easy, well-bred young’
establish him as a member of a privileged, elite class, used to a life of leisure. It
is surprising that the word ‘young’ is used when he had been described as roughly
thirty years old. Perhaps Priestley is suggesting that his attitude towards life is immature
and thoughtless; this foreshadows what we later learn about his irresponsible behaviour
towards Eva and Sheila. It also raises false hope that, like the younger Birlings, Gerald
will learn from his mistakes. The phrase ‘man-about-town’ shows that he is a fashionable socialite and
implies experience in the ways of the world. It also implies vanity in that he prioritises
himself (his appearance and his sexual needs) over helping others. This could foreshadow
the later revelation that he used Eva Smith to satisfy his needs before discarding her
when their relationship was no longer convenient. Bearing in mind the play was first performed
in Moscow in 1945, Gerald’s privileged appearance and demeanour would have confirmed communist
beliefs about the lazy, wealthy elite living a life of privilege at the expense of the
poor. The 1946 London audience, however, is likely
to have contained men like Gerald. The stage direction therefore sets Gerald up as a character
with whom some members of the audience will engage, sympathise with and finally condemn.
Gerald is Priestley’s tool to reveal the flaws of the upper classes. First of all, Priestley reveals that Gerald’s
parents, Lord and Lady Croft, are unable to attend his engagement party; this confirms
Gerald’s role as a member of the upper classes. The audience might initially assume that Gerald
wants to marry Sheila because he is madly in love with her; however, there are references
throughout the play to his absences during the summer, which makes the audience wonder
about him. We discover that Sheila was right to be concerned when we learn about his affair
with Eva Smith. So, why is he marrying Sheila? We can only assume that, as the son of a successful
businessman and aristocrat, there are business opportunities for Crofts Limited and Birling
& Co., which Mr Birling references in his engagement speech and with which Gerald agrees
saying ‘Hear! Hear!’. We therefore suspect that Gerald has business focused reasons for
marriage—he is deceitful to Sheila, and he prioritises business over love. Gerald very much allies himself with Mr Birling
in business matters and, like Mr Birling, he initially denies knowing Eva Smith. His
attitude is dismissive when he says ‘I don’t come into this suicide business’. The phrase
‘suicide business’ is cold-hearted and unexpected. Suicide is not a business in the
sense that Crofts Limited is a business; however, ‘business’ can also mean a difficult matter
or a scandalous event. By using the phrase ‘suicide business’, Priestley positions
Gerald as superior because he implies that others are responsible for Eva’s death.
His reaction soon changes when he hears Eva Smith referred to as Daisy Renton, however,
so Priestley positions the audience, which has seen Gerald’s smug self confidence,
to enjoy his discomfort in his pending interrogation. Like Eric, Gerald considers the women who
frequent the Palace Theatre bar only in terms of their appearance, and criticises their
‘dough face[s]’ and ‘hard eye[s]’. This reveals how the commodification of women
is totally normal for him. His complimentary description of Eva Smith’s ‘big dark eyes’
reveals an attitude of objectification of her. He considers the women in the bar as
if he is choosing an item in a shop—rather than thinking of her as a person, he is thinking
of her as something for him to enjoy. He describes himself as saving Eva Smith from Joe Meggarty,
but the truth is he was not much better himself. When the inspector uncovers Gerald’s affair
with Eva, Priestley shows that Gerald is upset by her death. He reports ending the affair,
saying ‘She didn’t blame me at all. I wish to God she had now’. Priestley here
focuses the attention of the audience on what appears to be genuine remorse and self-blame.
This makes the audience feel some sympathy towards Gerald as a character and, for a while,
the audience believes that he will align himself with the inspector’s views of social responsibility.
This is particularly exciting, as he is a member of a class that holds power and has
lots of social contacts in the higher echelons of society. However, the audience changes its opinion
of Gerald when in Act 3, he does everything that he can to prove that the inspector is
a fake. Unlike Sheila and Eric, he has learnt nothing at all. Like Mr and Mrs Birling, he
wants to avoid a public scandal and to protect himself and his wealth. At this point in the
play, Priestley sets the audience up to condemn Gerald, particularly when he offers Sheila
the engagement ring, saying ‘Everything’s alright now’. The audience sees that he
has learnt absolutely nothing. Even if Eva does not exist, he refuses to reflect upon
his treatment of Daisy Renton and to become a better person. To conclude, for a moment, Priestley encourages
the audience to sympathise with Gerald, in the hope that he (and the aristocracy he represents)
will become a better person. When this fails to happen, the disappointed audience condemns
him and his attitude towards Eva and, by default, towards vulnerable members of society. Through
Gerald, Priestley presents the aristocracy as self-interested people who, instead of
sharing their wealth, are more likely to follow family tradition of preserving it for the
next generation.

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  1. I'm interested to know your interpretation as to why priestly allows for the assumption that indeed, Eva may not be daisy and that none of the "photos" match…

  2. mr buff i really need help your video really help me in my AQA year 9 romeo and juiliet but now we are starting off the book to kill a mocking bird can you please make a vedio on killing a mocking bird pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

  3. hi sir,i having my gcse exams next summer and i wanted to ask you how i could make my writing more perceptive.I follow the exact same structure as you do when writing sample paragraphs but cant seem to ever get higher than a grade 7.Can you give me some tips on this please

  4. I'm confused, does Sheila not say "with big dark eyes" when she accepts her responsibility for the death of Eva Smith and she explains what happened at the shop?

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