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Discuss Priestley's depiction of the Birling household and Gerald Croft, prior to the arrival of Inspector Goole.

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Introduction

10/12/03 William Murray English Literature Coursework Discuss Priestley's depiction of the Birling household and Gerald Croft, prior to the arrival of Inspector Goole In this submission I hope to fully discuss Priestley's depiction of the Birling household and Gerald Croft, prior to the arrival of Inspector Goole. The play is set in the fictional town of Brumley, an industrial town in the North Midlands. It is evening in the town, in the spring of 1912. At the moment the play starts the characters are celebrating the engagement between Gerald Croft and the Birling family's only daughter Sheila. They are all very pleased with themselves and are enjoying the occasion. The house is described as being a fairly large suburban house. The furniture in the rooms is described as being, "good solid furniture of the period. The general effect is substantial and heavily comfortable, but not cosy and homelike." As you will see later Mr. Birling always wants to make the impression that he is better than his guest, or at least is his guest's social equal. The furniture in the house may be another one of Birling's attempt to make the guest feel this way. He doesn't want to make the guest feel comfortable in his home he wants to make them feel small and insignificant in comparison to himself. Mrs. Birling is, herself, a person that is obsessed by social class, she may have selected the furniture herself as a way of showing off their status and again making their guests feel as if they aren't as "good" as the Birling family. Birling as you will see later is the stereotypical capitalist of the time. He will do anything to make himself look and feel as if he is better than his guest. The furniture represents the Birling families longing for status. In the early 1900s social status was virtually everything. This was because socialism dominated the whole of the United Kingdom. ...read more.

Middle

Whenever Sybil interrupts her husband, he instantly stops and corrects himself or apologises to her. Sybil uses her social status as a means of taking control of her husband. You get the impression that Mrs. Birling is a very quick-minded individual. She seems to be one step ahead of the conversation at all times and seems to understand any hidden messages behind a person's comment. This is shown when Sybil notices the tensions between Gerald and her daughter Sheila after Gerald spent most of the summer away. She does her best to get rid of this tension by saying, "Now, Sheila, don't tease him. When you're married you'll realise that men with important work to do sometimes have to spend nearly all their time and energy in their business. You'll have to get used to that, just as I had." She also congratulates Gerald when he produces the ring just at the right moment, realising that it dismissed any tension between him and his fianc�e. The conversation itself flows according to Sybil. She changes the subject whenever she feels right to do so. This may be a sign of how Sybil rates herself above the rest of the family. You may get the feeling that she changes the subject when she gets bored with the old one. Mrs. Birling treats her now grown up children as still children. She refers to her daughter as a girl rather than a woman on atleast one occasion. She has a huge influence on Sheila. Mrs. Birling knows exactly how a girl should be brought up to become the perfectly well mannered young woman. With all her attention on Sheila you get the feeling that Eric is somewhat out of the family spotlight, because as I will write later, Birling gives little attention to his son either. Snobbish and arrogant are two words that describe Mrs. Birling well. ...read more.

Conclusion

In the last part of this scene when Eric returns to the conversation between Mr. Birling and Gerald Croft, the other two men mock him. This is no doubt another way that Priestley has shown how he feels the bully like capitalists mocked the weaker socialists just because they thought differently to themselves. Capitalism was so dominant that socialist ideas were simply pushed aside because of capitalist's narrow minded thinking. Inspector Goole is the strong socialist character in the play. Another thing that makes the reader think that Birling is a complete and utter idiot is when he talks so patronisingly about H.G. Wells and George B. Shaw. These are two very popular writers who were themselves socialists. J.B. Priestley wanted to show how stupid Birling was by not agreeing with the ideas of these two very intelligent men. H.G. Wells worked with the League of Nations so his ideas were worth a lot more than Birling's ones. The timing at which the doorbell rang when the inspector calls may something that Priestley wanted to emphasise. When the doorbell rings Birling is in full patronising and pompous flow. The doorbell, you feel, is acting as a wake up call. It is a sign that things are about to change very dramatically. This may also be the wake up call for the whole of capitalism in the United Kingdom. When, finally, a strong socialist makes an impact on capitalists and makes them finally think outside the "build them cheap, sell them expensive" capitalist business mentality. Eric's character most probably represents the beginning of socialist thinking, when people just started to think of other options to politics than the capitalist view. Inspector Goole represents the stronger socialist ideology, which came about later on in history. Inspector Goole may also represent Priestley's socialist ideas. There is also the idea in my mind that Goole represents the person that started off the breakdown of capitalism into a society that was more tolerant of the socialist mentality. William Murray ...read more.

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