The ideal Edwardian middle class fiancï¿½e was a very childish immature individual who tended to act like a young girl. Edwardian middle class fiancï¿½es also tried to associate themselves with the upper-class. They did this in a few ways. The first way was in the language they used to speak to each other. This language was only used by the middle-class so a working-class woman would not be associated with it and also not expected to use it. They also tried to keep close to them their own class. Edwardian women were meant to be innocent as well as acting childish. Also women of this time would have been expected to show respect to both men and their elders. This meant that they would not be able to show emotions of their own only their elders and men.
Sheila’s character at the beginning of the play is portrayed as the ideal middle-class Edwardian fiancï¿½e. She is shown as very childlike and immature for her age of 23 years. J.B Priestly does this to show that it is just a act being as she’s 23. She also talks in the middle class slang that all middle-class Edwardian fiancï¿½es spoke.
This shows that she is trying to fit in with the culture that her father and mother respect and feel they belong to. Also she may be trying to make a good impression with Gerald and to fit in his set. I think she portraying this character so when Gerald marries her she will gain social status in the form of the title Lady Croft. At the beginning of the play she also shows the signs of innocence that I mentioned in the first paragraph. This is because of her trying to fit into the frame that she has created for herself being the ideal Edwardian fiancï¿½e.
“What’s this about sheets?”
I think she does this mainly for her parents. This is because the ideal Edwardian fiancï¿½e would have to show respect to their elders. They thought that women of this area and status should not have dealings with anything outside this sort of sect.
“It would be much better if Sheila didn’t hear this”
This shows her fathers attempts to shield her from the world.
Women of this class also had to pay respect to men. This is why Sheila plays up to Gerald and her father asking permission to do things they want to do.
“When do I drink?” “Sorry daddy”
This is aimed towards Gerald showing her willingness for him to control her life. Apart from playing up to her father she also does to her mother on various occasions.
“Yes go on mummy.”
This shows how much she wants to belong to the upper-class. Even though she acts like this towards her mother, father and Gerald she lets her act slip around Eric. This is because they are related and she is not so bothered about what he thinks.
“Don’t be an ass Eric.”
This even shows rudeness in her personality. This is how you would expect a modern day woman to act around a brother. J.B. Priestley lets her mask slip occasionally though so that audience saw it as less of a surprise later because she was like this feisty aggressive character earlier in the play.
Towards the end of at one Sheila lets her act slip totally. This shows her real self and not the image she was trying to put forward also it shows that she has a brain and is willing to use it.
“So I’m really responsible.”
This shows she not only realises that she has done wrong she is ready and willing to talk to the Inspector as an equal and not as a man interfering in family affairs. Also throughout the period when she shows herself she shows compassion for Eva and not disrespect whereas the family just do not care about her.
“Enter Sheila who looks like she has been crying.”
This is a stage direction but still it shows how Sheila was feeling at this point in time. It shows her compassion and feeling for Eva. In her speeches when she has come out as a strong independent woman she shows how much she fits this description. Sometimes she lets it out at Gerald.
“You fool he knows.”
This is before she came out but still shows her true feelings and emotions. It is her true colours.
Actresses playing Sheila should be aware of the many character traits that J.B. Priestley sets out for them to follow when they are portraying her. They are wide ranging and various. They are the actions that she could use. An example of this would be to turn away in disgust and scowl. He could also use physical violence against Gerald in the form of a slap. She could also use all forms of characterisation these are, speech, action, association, and appearance. She could also improvise with her speech in the form of adding entering angry tuts. She could use some sort of water to give the impression of crying and she could use red blusher to give herself a red complexion and therefore upset. This would give the impression of being flushed and upset