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Discuss how Priestley presents Mr. Birling's character to the audience in the opening of An Inspector Calls.

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Introduction

Discuss how Priestley presents Mr. Birling's character to the audience in the opening of An Inspector Calls. Does his character transform in any way by the end of the play? In the opening scene of Act 1, Priestley first reveals Mr. Birling as a narrow minded, egotistical man who lives by his capitalistic philosophy 'every man for himself'. By the end of the play Birling does not accept responsibility for his actions and does not have a change in personality. At the beginning of the scene Birling is celebrating the engagement of his daughter Sheila and her fianc� Gerald alongside his wife Mrs. Birling and his son Eric. In the scene Priestley portrays Birling as an unrefined and vulgar man. We see this when he praises their food and mentions 'Well, well - this is very nice.' In the Edwardian period, complementing your own food implies lack of social grace. Shortly after Mrs. Birling scolds him and tells him not to say such things. We get an impression that Birling is very pompous and self-absorbed when he makes his speech to congratulate Sheila and Gerald. Before he makes his speech, he 'clears his throat' as if he loves his own voice. ...read more.

Middle

He has a very narrow minded view of the world and has capitalist values. He mentions that 'we shouldn't let all the Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wellses do all the talking'. H.G Wells and Bernard Shaw were both socialists and Mr. Birling condemns the socialist values. This consists of a place being a community and equal with solidarity between one another. He condemns socialism and comments, 'Birling is very hypocritical because he asks Gerald whether his mother thinks Sheila is good enough for him, socially. This is hypocritical because Mrs. Birling is a social superior to Mr. Birling. Birling shows more complacency when eh tells Gerald he that is going to get a knighthood soon. We can tell that he is being a social climber and is trying to associate himself with people of a higher class, including Gerald and his family. Complacency is exposed when Birling comments, 'I gather there's a very good chance of a knighthood - as long as we behave ourselves, don't get into the police or start a scandal' Gerald and Birling laugh at this complacently. There is irony to this comment because if all the things they did to Eva Smith were the cause of her death, a scandal would have begun. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Inspector asks him why he refused; he is surprised and mentions, 'Did you say why?' he says this because he feels he is a social superior to the Inspector and that he should get more respect. He then asks why the Inspector is asking so many questions. The Inspector replies, 'It is my duty to ask questions.' Priestley is using the Inspector as a mouthpiece to express his socialist values in the play. Birling explained why he dismissed Eva Smith but Eric, has more socialist values and says that he should have kept her at the job. Birling then comments, 'Rubbish! If you don't come down sharply on some of these people, they'd soon be asking for the earth.' The Inspector replied to Birling's comment and says, 'They might. But after all it's better to ask for the earth than to take it.' The Inspector is criticizing Mr. Birling's morals and hinting his greed and his avarice. By the end of the play, Birling did not transform in any way and went back to a celebratory mood when Gerald told them Inspector Goole was a fake. This showed that he did not take in anything the Inspector had said. The Inspector had more of an impact on the younger generation (Eric and Sheila). ?? ?? ?? ?? Mariama Renner 10JH ...read more.

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