Sybil Birling is presented as both a cold and condescending woman. In essence, she is presented as a class conscious, snob.
An Inspector Calls
Mrs Birling is introduced as sitting on the "other end of the table", opposite Mr Birling. This links to the second description of her as her husband's "social superior". This shows us that even during the Edwardian Era - a time when women's rights were highly manipulated and took control of by men - some women, like Mrs Birling, considered themselves to be of an equal, or possibly even a higher, status than their husbands. Priestley could be subtly critisising women of such thoughts as they automatically regarded their social status to be more supreme. But personally, I believe that Priestley is presenting to the 1946 audience that they were at a time when it was becoming increasingly common for women to contemplate their rights as equal to those of men; he could be arguing that this should become more acceptable in our society. As we now know, women in our current society have the same importance as men meaning that Priestley's message was strong enough to get across to his audience.
Furthermore, this mention of 'social superiority' gives us information about Mr Birling too. It suggests that Sybil, compared to Birling, has a higher mental strength. This is shown when the Inspector inquires all the characters about the suicide of Eva Smith. Both, Sybil and Birling, show little signs of remorse in Eva's death and they both refuse to take responsibility regarding her death however, Mrs Birling is offended at the accusal of taking a wrong decision in Eva's case in regards to charity due to her increased lack of class consciousness. Here, Priestley is telling us that the senior, upper class citizens of Britain were one of the leading factors of the negative differentiation between the upper class and the working class. He is teaching us the consequences of this difference in order to persuade us to think in a more Socialist manner regarding matters such as charity, welfare and social responsibility.
An Inspector Calls