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How has JB Priestly developed the character of Arthur Birling in Act One, through his use of language, structure and dramatic devices

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Introduction

How has JB Priestly developed the character of Arthur Birling in Act One, through his use of language, structure and dramatic devices? 'An Inspector Calls' is set in 1912, there were many big historical events happening at this time, such as the 1st World War nearing, the Titanic setting sail, the Russian revolution and the suffragette movement. However, the play was actually written in 1945, and this is emphasised on Mr Birling in a single passage in the play. JB Priestly who wrote the play was a socialist, which is when someone believes everyone should be equal, and earn the same amount of money no matter what they do. However the main character in the play, Arthur Birling, is a capitalist. Priestly emphasises this heavily by portraying Birling as greedy businessman that cares about nothing but money and his own welfare. When the Inspector calls on the family and instantly bombards Birling with intense questioning he is instantly unsettled. Birling doesn't like the fact that he put under pressure and isn't in charge of the situation. He is also almost offended by the fact that the inspector is almost accusing him of murder. He is uneasy with the constant questioning from the inspector and this is also much emphasised through the play. Our opinion of MR Birling is instantly formed in the first few pages when he is always the centre of attention. ...read more.

Middle

This shows that maybe Birling is only wanting his daughter to marry Gerald so that he can become family with a man who has higher status than him so that he can become more rich. When Priestly uses the stage direction 'confidentially' for Birling it shows he is trying to be casual about the fact he might get a knighthood, trying to impress Gerald once again. Birling gives a speech to his family about how a man has to look after himself, "A man has to make his own way-has to look after himself." This gives the impression that he comes first before anyone or anything else. It also emphasises the fact that he is a capitalist and that he does not share with other people and as long as he is well he doesn't care about anyone else. Halfway through this speech the stage directions, 'We hear the sharp ring of a doorbell' interrupt Birling. The inspector is at the door but Birling doesn't know this yet however he is already uneasy with the situation because he was interrupted. Priestly has structured the scene so that the bell rings in the middle of his speech to show how Birling can become apprehensive by the smallest thing. Before the inspector arrives Birling is confidentially making his speech to everyone about life and because his family believe him it makes him feel strong and commanding over them. ...read more.

Conclusion

Throughout the act Birlings mood has a complete turn around. At the beginning he is relaxed because he is in charge of the household but from the minute the inspector walks through the door he loses his control over the household and is put on the spot with the inspectors questioning. The continuous questioning and the rude way that Birling feels the inspector has intruded into his house just makes him more angry and the stage directions, 'abruptly' and 'angrily' show just that. There is not any stage when the inspector is present that Birling is stable and not feeling like he's being persecuted and this is continuously emphasised by Priestly throughout the play. During the play Priestly has cleverly developed the character of Arthur Birling, he's shown his mood changes just from not feeling in control and this is consistently shown throughout the whole visit of the inspector. The dramatic irony that Priestly used make Birling look like a fool and this was just to get the idea that he is a snob and over rated. All of Birlings stage directions show anger towards the inspector and this is shown regularly. Overall Priestly has cleverly developed the character by using dramatic devices and language that show how a man that thought he was almost above everybody socially can be bought back to reality by being the person that isn't in charge and is being questioned in an aggressive way. ?? ?? ?? ?? Tom Cheeseman ...read more.

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