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Mr Birling Inspector Calls Essay

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  1. Like many of you, i also have my english lit edexcel exam on Monday , anyway, some people are saying that Mr Birling may be on the exam, so please can you mark this and give me feedback!
    Also, what else is most likely to come up?

    Mr Birling is the father, and leader of the contemptuous Birling family. He is described by Priestly as a ''Portentous'' man. Throughout the play, we see Arthur Birling being conveyed by the play write as a rather pompous and injudicious character. He shows no remorse or concern for his wrongful actions, unless they affect his social status. Birling is also portrayed as a defiant capitalist and extreamly narrow minded.
    Priestly presents Mr Arthur Birling and a ignorant and foolish character with us use of Dramatic Irony. As Mr Birling was delivering his speech at his daughter, Sheila's engagement, he mentioned that the titanic, was ''unsinkable, absaloutley unsinkable''. As the play was written in 1945, we know that this bold statement is far from correct. Instantly, Priestlys use of dramatic irony not only proves that it is a mistaken view, but it allows the audience to understand that Arthur Birling is not wise, but infact a rather stupid and injudicious character.
    Priestly is also conveying that Arthur is very narrow minded. He is only intrested in the present, and does not look to the future, Mr Birling does not have a open mind. Like most men at that time, they believed that nothing could change. They believed that the rich would always rule over the poor, that the labour ''cranks'' could never be a ruling government, and Arthur Birling represents these views.
    Moreover, Priestlys use of repetition on the word ''unsinkable'' suggests that Mr Birling in certain that he is correct, when infatc he is far from it, making him appear to be foolish.
    On the other hand, not only does Priestlys use of the infamous titanic make Arthur look stupid, but it is also a symbol of arrogance. The titanic was a ship for the rich aristocrats of 1912, those who thought they were the hierarchy of society, much like what Mr Birling would like to see himself as. So for priestly to use the titanic as a example suggests that Birling is also a arrogant and pompous chracter.
    Alternitavely,the dramatic quote ''unsinkable, absaloutley unsinkable'' is Priestly foreshadowing the Birlings sinking fate. Mr Birling is so certain that he knows about everything, yet he is not aware that soon he will have a mysterious visitor at the door.

    J.B Priestly uses Mr Birlings talk of war to convey his socialists views to the audience , and opress Arthurs capitalist views. Mr Birling portrays his narrow minded views on war when he says ''you''ll hear some people say that wars inevitable, and to that, i say- fiddlesticks!". The play was written around the time when the second world war was coming to a end, so the audience are aware that Mr Birlings optimistic views are again, incorrect.
    Also, the play was set in 1912, 2 years before the first world war, Priestly uses this small time frame to display Arthur as a injudicious character.
    Priestly was aiming to use the post word war vulnerability of the audience to opress capitalist views and project his socialist views. In 1912, the rigid class and gender boundaries ensured that nothing would change, however by 1945, these divisions had been breached. The writer is aware that audience to not want another war, and from watching this play, do not want times to be like 1912, so he used mr birling as a catalyst to project these negative views.
    Priestly id also saying that capitalists are also like Mr Birling, they all think they are correct, when infact they are far from it.
    Moreover, the writer uses the dramatic quote about ''war'' to remind the audience of what happens when certain individuals seek power for themselves rather than caring for others. His message is to encourage the people of 1945 to seize the opportunity the war had given them to build a better, more caring society.
    As Inspector Goole says, ''we are all members of one body'', dont you agree?

    Priestly also conveys Mr Birling as a imprudent character who only cares about his social status. His behavious remains like this throughout the play. When the inspector arriced, Arthur had to make in known that his soon to be son in law was aristocrat, the ''son of Sir George Croft''. Birling did not even introduce his own son, but rather dismissed him whenever he spoke. This suggests that because of social status, Mr Birling treats Gerald more like a son to gain some sort of social respect.
    Secondly, in 1912 it was uncommon to marry somebody out of your social class, Birling was aware that his family were slightly lower on the social scale than ''Crofts Limited''. However, he made sure that Gerald Croft was aware that he was soon to be added onto the ''honours'' list, so that the Crofts would not dismiss him.
    Even when the inspector left, Arthur did not show any sign or sorrow for Eva Smith, but he was rather more worried about it ruining his reputation. He did not want it to become a ''public scandal''. Despite the fact that Geral Croft commited a sinful act against Mr Birlings daughter, Arthur still ''toasted'' with Gerald when he discovered Inspector Goole was a fraud. Arthur was so happy and relieved that it would not become a ''public scandal'' that he would even drink with someone who caused his daugher pain and distress.
    Alternitavley, the fact that he ''toasted'' with Gerald suggests that he still wants to hold a relationship with him because of his social status. Arthur would use any excuse not to loose a bond with the son of ''Sir George Corft'', and not to loose the potential chance of going in buisness with the succesful ''Crofts Limited''.
    In 1912, witholding a relationship with a aristocrat meant that you could climb up the social ladder, there would be no risk of going on the streets, Eva Smith's summer affair with Gerald Croft is a clear example of this.

    Mr Birling did not learn the morals that Priestly presented through the play ''An Inspector Calls'. He did not understand the fact that sacking Eva Smith from his workplace for his own financial benefit was wrong. Unlike his two children, Eruc and Sheila, who actually acknowldge their wrongdoing and showed remorse. Infact, young Eric who was often dismissed by his ''portentous'' father told him he was ''ashamed'' of him for what he did.
    Priestlys purpose was to again, opress capitalists, and he used Mr Arthur Birling as a catalyst. Arthur was not willing to take responsiblity for his actions, but he infact only cared about how he would look to society. He does not care for people, or in this case, his employees. Priestly used Mr Birling to represent capitalists. He is presenting the message that like Mr Birling, they are not willing to change, and only care for themselves, not their supporters.
    As Mr Birling says '' a man has to look after himself''.
    As a reader, i do not empathise with Arthur Birling as he seems to fail to connect with the writers message of fairness and humblesness. The author portrays him as a foolish character and also uses dramatic irony that capitalists are the cause of diasaster such as war. Birling showed no remorse for a dead girl and even toasted with a adulterer. However, Priestlys use of conveying arthur as a pompous, imprudent and imperious character allowed me to understand socialist views, and to belive that we a''are all responsible'' for eachother, and that ''we are all members of one body''.


    Btw, it took me 2hours to write this! Any suggestions on how time saving techniques?
  2. Ignore me

Mr Birling: Quotes & Revision Notes

Topics covered on this page (Mr Birling):
Mr Birling's Character
Priestley's Message (intended affect on the audience)
Mr Birling's Character Development/changes
Mr Birling's Key Quotes Bank
Arthur Birling is a man with some reputation in the town. He is the owner of Birling and Co., a factory business which employs several girls to work on (presumably sewing) machines. He believes that his worker's pay is reasonable and states that he pays the normal wage for his industry, oblivious to the fact that his actions will have consequences. Birling is a Magistrate and he was Lord Mayor of Brumley two years ago. Arthur is the husband of Sybil Birling (Mrs Birling) and father of Sheila and Eric Birling. J. B. Priestley describes him as a "heavy-looking man" in his mid-fifties, with easy manners but "rather provincial in his speech."He describes himself as a "hard-headed practical man of business," and he is firmly capitalist, and right-wing in his political views. He has no concept of value other than wealth or social status, he himself is a social climber. He believes that he and his wife uphold right values.


Priestley's message (Intended effect on the audience)

  • Being co-founder of a Socialist Party, Priestley felt strongly about his political views in favour of socialism and these views are displayed prominently throughout An Inspector Calls.
  • Priestly used the character of Mr Birling to represent how the upper class frowned upon people below them in society.
  •  Priestley was concerned about the consequences of social inequality in Britain, and the disparity caused by wealth and class divide. He believed that what resulted from this were the very characteristics shown in Mr Birling (selfishness, inability to admit responsibility for his part in Eva's death, exploitative tendencies, power lust etc.) Priestley wanted to encourage his audience to dislike Mr Birling and to see him as a fool – by rejecting the attitudes held by Mr Birling, Priestley’s audience could lead a better life.
  • Throughout the play, Priestley makes it clear that there is a consequence for every action. Through Mr Birling's thoughtless actions of firing Eva Smith, his inability to admit his partial responsibility in Eva’s death, and Birling wanting to cover up for Eric stealing money, Priestley portrayed the evil side of money and capitalism, as well as his dislike for capitalism due to the lack of care in society for the poor.

Mr Birling's Character Development/Changes

Mr Birling has not changed by the end of the play – he refuses to learn/take on board the Inspector’s lesson. As a result, the play ends with another phone call and the announcement of a second visit – perhaps from a ‘real’ Inspector. Priestley may be warning his audience of the dangers of not learning the lesson (of social responsibility) themselves.

Mr Birling's Key Quotes Bank

Please note that page numbers may vary by edition. (The numbers refer to page numbers)
↓*Capitalist view refers to authorial intention. Priestly wished to portray it as evil.*

Act 1

Pg 1: ‘Arthur Birling is a heavy looking, rather portentous man’
Pg 2: Showing off to Gerald Croft ‘Giving us the port Edna?’ 
Pg 3: Showing off to Gerald Croft 'You ought to like this port, Gerald. As a matter of fact,  Finchley told me it's the same port your father gets from him.'
Pg 4: Capitalism, Selfish ‘Now you have brought us together, and perhaps we may look forward to    a time when Crofts and Birlings are no longer competing but are working together – for lower costs and higher prices. ’
Pg 5: 'Sheila's a lucky girl - and I think you're a pretty fortunate young man too, Gerald'
Pg 6: 'Are you listening, Sheila? This concerns you too. And after all I don’t often make speeches at you-'
Pg 6: Naive, Capitalism ‘Fiddlesticks! The Germans don’t want war. Nobody wants war.’
Pg 7: Dismissive 'I'm talking as a hard-headed, practical man of business. And I say there isn't a chance of war.'
Pg 7: Dramatic Irony ‘The titanic- she sails next week’-‘Unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable’
Pg 7: ‘Let’s say, in 1940- you might be having a little party like this - your sons and daughters might be getting engaged.’
Stubborn, Capitalism 'man has to mind his own business and look after himself.'
Pg 8: Arrogance, Showing off 'There's a fair chance that I might find my way into the next Honours List.' Just a knighthood, of course'-'But it’s a bit too early for that. So don’t say anything.'
Pg 8: ‘So as long as we behave ourselves don’t get into the police court or start a scandal -eh?’
Pg 9: ‘Clothes mean something quite different to a woman. Not just something to wear and not only something to make 'em look prettier, but a sort of sign or token of their self respect.’
Pg 11: Intimidation 'I was an alderman for years – and Lord Mayor two years ago – and I’m still on the Bench – so I know the Brumley officers pretty well'
Pg 12: Power Imbalance 'She was one of my employees and then I discharged her.'
Pg 13: Remorseless ‘It has nothing whatever to do with this wretched girls suicide. Eh, Inspector?’
Pg 14: ‘I can't accept any responsibility. If we were all responsible for everything that happened to everybody we’d had anything to do with, it would be very awkward'
Pg 14: Looks down on the Inspector 'I don't like your tone'
Pg 15: Conflict ‘[to Eric] Look – you just keep out of this. You hadn't even started in the works when this happened.’
Pg 15: 'We were paying the usual rates and if they didn't like those rates, they could go and work somewhere else. It's a free country, I told them.'
Pg 15: Capitalist View 'Well, it’s my duty to keep labour costs down, and if I’d agreed to this demand for a new rate we’d have added about twelve per cent to our labour costs.'
Pg 15: Capitalist View “If you don’t come down hard on these people they’d soon be asking for the earth.”
Pg 16:(Context) 'I didn’t suppose you did.'
Pg 17: Patronising ‘Nothing to do with you, Sheila. Run along’ 

Act 2

Pg 33: Patronising '(to Mrs Birling) What's the matter with that child?' 
Pg 33: 'And I do not propose to give you much more rope’
Pg 37: ‘A young unmarried girl is being dragged into this-'
Pg 41: '(angrily, to Inspector) Look here, I’m not going to have this, Inspector. You’ll apologise at once.'
Pg 41: ‘I’m a public man’
Pg 43: ‘Is there any reason why my wife should answer questions from you. Inspector?’
Pg 45: '(dubiously) I must say, Sybil, that when this comes out at the inquest, it isn’t going to do us much good. The Press might easily take it up-'
Pg 48: 'Be quiet Sheila’

Act 3

Pg 51: 'I understand a lot of things now I didn’t understand before.’ 
Pg 54: ‘I’ve got to cover this up as soon as I can’
Pg 56: Wouldn't pay Eva an extra few shillings, yet attempts to bribe Goole '(unhappily) Look, Inspector - I'd give thousands - yes, thousands -'
Pg 57: ‘You’re the one I blame for this’
Pg 57: Arrogance 'You! You don’t seem to care about anything. But I care. I was almost certain for a knighthood in the next Honours List'
Pg 58: Feels no guilt ‘There’ll be a public scandal’
Pg 59: ‘Telling me to shut up – and so on’
Pg 60: ‘You ought to have stood up to him'
Pg 63: ‘This makes a difference, y’know. In fact, it makes all the difference’
Pg 71: Relentless 'Nonsense! You’ll have a good laugh over it yet! Look, you’d better ask Gerald for that ring you gave back to him, hadn’t you? Then you’ll feel better'
Pg 71:Foolish 'We’ve been had, that’s all.'
Pg 72: ‘The famous younger generation who know it all. And they can’t even take a joke.’
Pg 73: Plot Twist/ Cliffhanger ‘That was the police. A girl has just died – on her way to the infirmary.’ 

The final line: [As they stare guiltily and dumbfounded, the curtain falls.] 

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