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How does Priestly portray Mr Birling in Act 1?

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How does Priestly portray Mr Birling in Act 1? Mr Birling is presented as a successful businessman, who has been active in local politics and was Lord Mayor of Brumley, although it may become clear that he does not care about the local community. Mr Birling is also wife of Sybil Birling and the father of Sheila and Eric. From the first set of stage directions we know that the family is comfortable in their wealth and also found out that Arthur Birling's wife is his social superior, implying that he began in a lower class and worked his way up to the upper class he is in now. Arthur Birling likes to inform others of his wealth and of the important people he knows, which may be understandable considering how hard he has worked to be where he is, and would like to bask in the glory. From the very first stage directions we see, at the start of the play we found out that Priestly described Arthur Birling as a, "heavy-looking, rather portentous man". ...read more.


One of the first things Mr Birling says is quite inappropriate for him to mention, ?exactly the same port as your father gets,? Mr Birling is trying to impress Gerald and therefore his father as they are of a higher class as him and also a rival company he hopes to join with. During one his speeches he refers to Sir George?s Wife as ?er-Lady Croft? this uncertainty of what her name is, implies that they are unlikely to have met even though his daughter is marrying her son. Mr Birling, obsessed with social status seems to put Gerald?s happiness before that of his daughters, ?she?ll make you happy and I?m sure you?ll make her happy? he says this as if Sheila?s contentment is a mere after thought just so long as she is marrying above herself she?s expected to be pleased. Mr Birling as a ?hard headed businessman? thinks his opinion is fact and believed by all and those who do not share in his view are ?cranks?. ...read more.


He believes everyone should act as a community and all have responsibility for their actions against anyone. This is in deep contrast to the morals of Mr Birling. Mr Birling thinks that he has no responsibility over his employees. If he fires them then it is their responsibility what they do. He is very 'right wing' in his thinking and does not believe that everyone is equal. This Makes Mr Birling increasingly more angry with the Inspector. "If they are poor, it is of their own fault" Mr Birling believes in inequality depending on wealth and thus also social status whilst The Inspector is very 'left wing' and believes in equality of all people no matter the status. The character of Mr Birling is presented by Priestley as a very pompous, self-obsessed and rather boastful in act one. I think that the character is full of negativity and is quite a contrast to other characters in the play such as, Sheila and Inspector Goole. I believe that Priestly is trying to highlight the theme of responsibility, as Arthur Birling refuses to take any for Eva Smith, and how great his social conscience is, resulting in an unpleasant personality to the audience through this character. ...read more.

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