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The role of Arthur Birling in "An Inspector Calls"

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Introduction

The role of Arthur Birling in "An Inspector Calls" I am going to investigate the role of Arthur Birling in the play "An Inspector calls. Arthur Birling is the head of the family, he is rich and bad-tempered. He doesn't care about anyone unless they are making him look good or richer. He is a very traditional man, and within his family, he likes to believe that what he says goes. Mr Birling is a pompous man in his mid fifties. At the beginning of the play, Birling is in charge of everything. He is a public figure and is obsessed with how things appear to people and maintaining the high status he has within the community. The Birlings are a middle class family. Sybil Birling is Arthur's social superior. Arthur hopes to get a Knighthood, he believes that he will due to all the work he has done for the community. He was Lord Mayor for two years and he still is a member of the bench. Mr Birling knows that Gerald's family believe him to be marrying below his social status so he tells Gerald to drop hints to them about him gaining a Knight Hood in the hope it will impress them. ...read more.

Middle

Priestley uses Birling to represent Capitalist views and the Inspector to represent Socialist views. Priestley uses the Inspector to represent what he believed him, he shows him as the all knowing, wise man with a lot of patience and as the one who tries to teach Birling a lesson. Whereas Priestley uses Birling to symbolize everything he was against, he shows Birling as a business man who is only interested in making money. The play is written in 1940 but set in 1912. This has an impact on who the audience perceive Birling. Priestley hopes that this will be negative perception. This is because in the play Arthur makes several speeches where he makes predictions about the future. "We've past the worst of it", "you'll hear some people say that war is inevitable. And to that I say - fiddlesticks! The Germans don't want war. Nobody wants war", "I'm talking as a hard-headed, practical man of business. And I say there isn't a chance of war.", "the Titanic - she sails next week - forty six thousand eight hundred tons - forty six thousand eight hundred tons - New York in five days - and every luxury - and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable." ...read more.

Conclusion

This is a very shallow response and it shows how little Birling cares about the deeper issues brought up by the Inspector. He can't understand the Inspector asking them to see that all of them are in some way responsible for Eva's death. He cannot see that all people are in some way responsible for one another. He doesn't understand why Sheila and Eric are so upset. Especially when they discover that Goole was a fraud, he just passes of the events as a joke and nothing has changed for him. He ignores the shameful things his family has done. He is happy to believe that everything is just as it was a few hours ago. He is selfish and self-centred and can't see why his children can't go on living as they did before. He imitates the inspector saying "You all helped kill her" then points towards Sheila and Eric, laughing, as he remembers their faces once the Inspector had said that. Then he repeats what the Inspector had said about the younger generation "Now look at the pair of them - the famous younger generation who know it all" mocking his children because they actually feel some regret for their actions. This is an example of pride coming before a fall as a moment later the phone rings and he is panicking. ...read more.

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