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Gerald offers a contrast to the combative attitudes of Arthur and Sybil Birling in regards to Inspector Goole’s questioning. He isn’t quite as quick to defend himself, nor to denounce others; he and Sheila serve as voices of reason throughout the investigation, and Gerald’s desire to process what’s been said speaks to his level-headed nature, one that complements his easy confidence as the privileged son of an industrialist. It’s his lofty position in society, and the success that comes with it, which grants him a certain lack of deference to consequences. He is less affected by Inspector Goole’s accusations because he enjoys the invulnerability of the upper classes. The Birlings, on the other hand, prize their social standing precisely because it is not set in stone; they are lower on the rung than Gerald, and will stop at nothing to maintain what they have.
Gerald had an affair with Daisy Renton and doesn’t explicitly deny culpability, but also manages to appear least culpable in the eyes of Inspector Goole, owing to his claim that he truly cared for her. Where Arthur and Sybil lash out at Goole and claim they’re the victims of an unjust attack, characterizing the accusations as invalid and thus of little consequence, Gerald takes a moment to collect his thoughts. This contemplative move is what allows Gerald to discover the nature of Goole’s deception, and bring to light the idea that the investigation is a “hoax.” Once Gerald realizes the girl in question may not have been the same girl they all did wrong, and that no girl committed suicide, he is firm in his belief that nothing really happened, aligning himself with Arthur and Sybil. However, his relief is less palpable than that of the elder Birlings because for Gerald, the stakes were never as high; Gerald admits to his transgressions, discovers the “hoax” revelation, and accepts Sheila’s unwillingness to re-enter into an engagement with him, all with a sense of detachment. He may technically be the least culpable and he may have maintained a sense of pragmatism throughout the proceedings, but he also had the least to lose.