Edna, the parlourmaid, is just clearing the table, which has no cloth, of dessert plates and champagne glasses, etc., and replacing them with a decanter of port, cigar box, and cigarettes. All five are in the evening dress of the period, the men in tails and white ties, not dinner jackets.
Arthur Birling is a heavy-looking, rather portentous looking man in his middle fifties with fairly easy manners but rather provincial in his speech. (to Edna, who is about to go, with tray.) all right, Edna.
At the end of the play Mrs Birling’s final line ,’ They’re over tired. ‘ is followed after Sheila and Eric stating that the family can’t continue as before but here, as in the beginning of the play, Mrs Birling dismisses it.
Priestly did this to emphasise the fact that she is completely unchanged by the inspector and will continue to live her life in this cycle of events as she refuses to make a significant change.
His wife is about fifty, a rather cold woman and her husband's social superior. I'll ring from the drawing room when we want coffee.
Sheila is a pretty girl in her early twenties, very pleased with life and rather excited.
Gerald Croft is an attractive chap about thirty, rather too manly to be a dandy but very much the easy well-bred man about town.
Eric is in his early twenties, not quite at ease, half shy, half assertive. ( he pushes it towards Eric.) You ought to like this port, Gerald, as a matter of fact, Finchley told me it's exactly the same port your father gets from him. The governor prides himself on being a good judge of a port. Sheila: (gaily, possessively) I should jolly well think not, Gerald, I'd hate you to know all about port – like one of these purple-faced old men. Birling: (noticing that his wife has not taken any) Now then, Sybil, you must a take a little tonight.
Our first impressions of Mrs Birling come from the following quote used to describe her, ‘A rather cold woman,’ – the use of the word cold suggests a lack of emotion – of substance there, which is strange considering her life is initially put across to the reader as a vision of perfection full of ‘desert plates and champagne glasses,’ This immediately sets the tone for the rest of the play as here as Priestly suggests here that some people fail to see what is directly in front of them – Mrs Birling is so focused on conforming to her stereotypical ‘upper-class’ title that she doesn’t appreciate the riches that she already has.
The notion of maintaining a certain image is developed further by Priestly when we see Mrs Birling’s embarrassment when her husband complements the cook, ‘Arthur, you’re not supposed to say such things-’ Her life is governed by her notion of correctness – as soon as someone behaves in a way which does not live up to their social expectations in society – she reprimands them.