“Yes go on mummy you must drink our health”
This quote emphasizes to the reader again the importance of alcohol to the Birling family and shows that they use alcohol to symbolize their social status.
Sheila later on implies that Eric is drunk and is very aware of Eric’s drinking problem.
This creates some tension between the two, as Sheila doesn’t particularly like Eric’s character when he is “squiffy”. She then goes on to say
“Don’t be an ass”
This implies that Sheila is annoyed with Eric’s behavior. Alcohol is already starting to cause some tension and conflict between these two characters. Priestly has used the theme of alcohol as a source of conflict to show some characters true behavior.
The classes represented throughout the play is varied from characters like Edna the maid and prosperous factory owners like Mr Birling .Mr Birliing is a very hard headed business man whose first priority is to make money and doesn’t care who he hurts along the way. Mr Birling represents Priestly’s hatred of businessmen who are only interested in making money. He will never alter his ways and leaves it to the younger generation to learn from his mistakes. Mr would consider himself of a higher class than the likes of Edna, as shown in the very beginning of the play
“All right Edna I’ll ring from the drawing room when we want coffee.”
Mr Birling shows some, what little respect for Edna. He treats her as though she were of a lower class than him probably without even realizing it. Conflict could erupt here because of Mr Birling’s ignorance.
Mr Birling’s ignorance could also ignite conflict within the family. His relationships between his children show that he expects them to defer to his opinions. He treats them as if though they were still l un-nurtured children. This is shown when Eric attempts to rudely interrupt Mr Birling.
“Yes, I know-but still-.” “What about War.”
However he fails to do so. Mr Birling however, is very annoyed by Eric’s actions and timing. A sense of irony is also recognized as; Mr Birling seems to be very optimistic about the future and dismisses prospects such as outbreaks of war and strikes. The father-son relationship between these two characters is very unstable. Mr Birling treats Eric as though he knows nothing about the world and society they live in and as though he were an adolescent. This could cause conflict because Mr Birling is very small-minded and doesn’t realise that Eric is growing up and will turn into an adult one day.
Mrs. B does also come across as more hard faced and hardheaded than her husband and is introduced as his social superior. She is constantly correcting Mr Birling for his actions and speech.
“Now Arthur I don’t think you ought to talk business on an occasion like this”
Mr Birling: “Quite so, I agree with you”
This implies that Mrs. B, who likes to “wear the trousers in this relationship”, dominates the relationship that they have. Both characters attitude are similar however Mrs. B has the stronger sense of dominance and power.
Priestly shows conflict between Mrs. B who is considered higher class and Eva who is off a lower class. He shows this through external conflict. Mrs. B and Eva met when Eva had no-one else to turn to, however Mrs. B’s ignorance got in the way and led her to turn very vicious and turned Eva away. Thus causing conflict because of Mrs. B’s attitude towards those of a lower class than her. However Mrs. B fails to accept responsibility for her actions.
“ It wasn’t I who had turned her out of employment which probably begun it in the first place”.
Mrs. B attempts to relieve herself from her part in Eva’s death by accepting little responsibility for it. Her snobbish attitude expects others to show her more respect than she does them. Mrs. B thinks extremely low of Eva and doesn’t give it a second thought to help her.
“She was claiming elaborate fine feelings and scruples that were simply absurd in a girl in her position”
Thus implying that just because Eva is in that position she doesn’t have feelings or emotions. Mrs. clearly feels that she is not entitled to these.
In conclusion to this essay I can say that Priestly presents conflict mainly through External relationships. The main characters and their relationship with Eva are all examples of conflict between classes. They all treat her similarly because at the time the Birling family had the same-blinded view on social classes. Ignorance and pettiness got in the way of fairness and blindness. Alcohol also played a part in representing the Birlings for who they are and their social status. Alcohol was introduced at the very beginning of the play instantly causing conflict in general.
There was internal conflict within the family as well as external. The main character Mr. Birling caused some tension and conflict within the family because of his hardheaded business like attitude. A perfect example of this how he treated Edna. The Birling family as a whole were blinded by class and money and didn’t pay enough attention to the persons true character. Overall Priestly puts across his own view of what he believed to be different social classes and how they acted toward each other.