In the previous lesson, students were introduced to the concept ‘Universe of Obligation’ and used it to consider the behaviour of Mr Birling in relation to Eva Smith. Students also began to explore the consequences of being left outside of an individual’s or community’s universe of obligation, focusing their study on workers’ rights in a debate.
In this lesson, students will analyse the character of Sheila to further their understanding of the interplay between an individual’s identity and choices, whilst also considering the influence that power can have on one’s decision-making process. It is important to consider the power that someone possesses because when someone is in a powerful position, the choices that they make can have a great impact on the lives of others. Power in a society is often distributed according to particular features of identity, such as class or gender. A society’s biases towards certain features of identity over others can provide some people with more power than others. As people often share and reflect the biases of the societal structures in which they live, people with power may choose to act in ways that exclude or mistreat those with identities that society is biased against. Ensuring that students are aware of this subtle and complex interplay between identity, values and power is vital if they are to challenge not only individual injustice, but also structural injustice.
Next, students will be given the opportunity to draw connections between the character of Sheila and themselves, not only reflecting on the relationship between their own identities and choices, but also considering whether or not power plays a role in their social interactions with others. Such reflection will encourage them to consider how the topics they explore in the classroom are relevant to the world outside of it, and will help them view themselves both as agents of change and as agents whose actions have consequences with repercussions beyond their own lives.
After reading more of the play, students will build on the work they have done in previous lessons regarding inferences, claims, relevant evidence and annotation. First, they will consider how to use evidence from the text effectively to support their claims, making links to the sociohistorical contexts of the play, if relevant, and then they will analyse Priestley’s presentation of Sheila in Act One in a formal piece of writing.
The activities in this lesson refer to pages 16–26 of the Heinemann edition of An Inspector Calls.