Neither does he show any signs of power when the inspector questions him; he attempts to avoid an interview by bribery and use of social status. Mr Birling seems to be a character that is confident in an environment where he is not questioned or opposed, but is easily exposed when placed in a position, which threatens his reputation. He attempts to cover weakness by using strong words and bold assumptions, which reveal the small man hiding behind a wall of false impressiveness.
Sheila also uses the power of reputation to get what she wants; she has very little self-discipline and uses her status to get her way. She has the power to make others feel guilty rather than accept her own responsibility. Throughout the play she tries to make others involvement seem worse to cover her own. She claims to feel extremely guilty about having Eva dismissed from her job a second time but this could be an act so both her family and the reader feel less inclined to blame her. Sheila’s power is the ability to avoid responsibility, make herself seem more vulnerable and inflict guilt upon others.
The inspector holds most power, using intimidation to extract information from others yet not giving anything away himself. He has the ability to make the Birlings say things that he can use to his advantage. For example, when Mrs Birling lays all blame upon the father of Eva Smith’s unborn child, the inspector does not inform her that it was infact Eric, instead he allows her to dig a deeper hole. He also has the power of respect, although the Birlings dislike him, they do answer his questions and know that he has the power to expose them and their secret to the public and destroy their reputation.
Mrs Birling used her own power as a high-ranking member of the voluntary group, to manipulate her colleagues into agreeing with her decision to turn Eva away. She also uses intimidation to a certain extent. She is intelligent and not easily caught out until the inspector corners her. Eric used physical power to force Eva into a relationship she clearly did not want. Eric-like his sister- has very little self-discipline and is unable to control his actions. He does not use his name or social status to gain power; instead, he used wealth and gave Eva money. He appears to give her money to support her but it seems he may also be doing it so he feels he has power over her and she is in his debt.
Eva Smith herself had a large amount of power in the form of influence. She has changed the relationships within the Birling family and has had an impact on each member individually. She managed to expose a completely different side to the well thought of family with seemingly innocent children. This play showed many forms of power, hidden within each family member and the other characters. The play demonstrates what we all know about human beings, that first impressions are not always accurate and some people are more powerful than we first think.