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An Inspector Calls - How does Mr. Birling's Philosophy Affect the Other Characters?

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How does Mr. Birling's Philosophy Affect the Other Characters? J.B. Priestly was trying to ask questions about social and moral issues when he wrote 'An Inspector Calls'. He wants us to question ourselves, 'are we Sheila, or Mr Birling, Gerald or Mrs Birling?' He wrote this play in 1945 though it is set in 1912. The play looks at opposite views on morals and ideas from The Inspector and Mr Birling, The Inspector being an opposite character in morals to Birling. Mr Birling's Philosophy on life was, '...a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own...'. This philosophy obviously rubbed off onto his children and wife and during the essay I shall see how it affects the different characters linked to Mr Birling and his philosophy. Arthur Birling is a capitalist who is very sure of himself and his way of life. Our first introduction to him is when he is making a speech at his daughters engagement party about business opportunity's with his new son-in-law. This shows his priorities are not right and he obviously can't put business second for one minute. He is very sure of himself considering a knighthood and he tries to pull rank on Inspector Goole. He also, on page 6, states that Europe will not go to war as there is too much at stake for all involved, two years later Europe is engulfed in the turmoil of World War One, ...read more.


Also we find out that on page 53 Eric steals some money to help out Eva, yes an admirable idea, but someone brought up with different values may not have stolen the money, we get the picture that Eric is somewhat of a bad egg. His father is naturally disappointed in Eric for taking the money but again maybe he wouldn't have taken it under different parentage. When he finds out that Eva is pregnant he leaves her and offers to give her some money, he tells his father that, 'I hate these fat old tarts round the town - the ones I see some of your respectable friends with -' Yet he seems not to love Eva even though he liked her enough to get her pregnant he seems to be worried about the gap in class between Eva and himself if he doesn't like the respectable girls but is also ashamed of lower class girls, he doesn't seem to have his story right. Mrs Birling, Arthur Birling's wife has a very cold and hard attitude toward Eva Smith for going to the Brumley Women's Charity Organization and using the name Mrs Birling, Mrs Birling calls this 'gross impertinence' and to the Inspector's question of 'You admit being prejudiced against her case?' She simply replies, 'Yes.' The fact is that Mrs Birling didn't actually know Eva's real name so she could easily have been called Mrs Birling and she still was prejudiced against her case just for having the same name as her. ...read more.


My conclusion is that the Philosophy of Mr Birling '...a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own...' has rubbed off onto the others to a certain extent, some characters, Eric and Sheila, have learnt from the experience, learnt to take responsibility and grown as people. Other characters, Gerald and Mr and Mrs Birling seem to have worried about their reputations and as soon as it is over they don't take it all onboard but they just try to explain why the Inspector was a hoax whilst Eric and Sheila are left with their consciences working overtime. I feel that, although the Inspector wasn't a real Inspector he represents what will happen so he is trying to teach the characters now so they can help and explain things more clearly in their real investigation. The Inspector tried to leave a mark on the others by talking about humans being 'members of one body' so our actions do, against Mr Birling's belief, really matter as they affect others in ways we cannot imagine, 'we are responsible for each other' is another line trying to get it across the fact that we need to look out for our fellow man. Priestley is trying to get us to realise we need to think carefully before doing something because our actions, like in the cases of Mr Birling, Mrs Birling, Gerald, Eric and Sheila, can have disastrous results. ...read more.

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  1. About the characters

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