In what ways does J B Priestley present the effect of the Inspectors visit on Arthur Birling in the play?

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In what ways does J B Priestley present the effect of the Inspectors visit on Arthur Birling in the play?

Arthur Birling is a heavy-looking, rather portentous man in his mid-fifties with fairly easy manners but rather provincial in his speeches. At the start of the play Gerald Croft and the Birlings have all had a good dinner, are celebrating a special occasion, and are very pleased with them selves. They are celebrating Sheila and Gerald Crofts engagement.    

In the beginning Mr Birling is expecting Gerald to adopt his fathers business, meaning that Gerald will be the one giving the economic stability to Sheila when they are married. This proves that Arthur Birling thinks that men should be responsible for the economic affairs of their homes. This character also shows that he only cares about himself when he says: “You’d think everybody has to look after everybody else, as if we were all mixed up together like bees in hive-community and all that nonsense.”  This tells the audience that Birling doesn’t like the idea of people looking out for one and another. In those days in the early 19th century it was normal for the husband to work and the wife to deal with the household and look after the children, this information helps us to understand Arthur’s way of thinking because that was what the people lived by and did in his day of life.  

Arthur Birling doesn’t believe in looking after each other, he believes he knows all the answers and that he is superior to others when he declares: “take my word for it, you youngsters and I’ve learnt in the good hard school of experience that a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own.” This explains that Arthur Birling is a very ambitious and competitive man, and suggests helping others may slow your process to achieve your objectives, which is not what he expects from a good society.

Arthur Birling sometimes gets carried away with his speeches in the play, when he is talking about what is going on in the world and what he thinks will happen. However when Birling says something will happen, he really means that he hopes it doesn’t happen. For example, he rejects predictions and fears of war because there is too much at stake for him. This is dramatic irony in the play because the following things he says will eventually go wrong.

The audience will laugh at Arthur Birlings ironic speeches in the play because history has proven Arthur wrong, when he says: “We’re in for a time of steady increasing prosperity.” Arthur is wrong about the statement he makes because the audience knows the General Strike happened in 1926 and the continued rise of the Trade Union Movement. Mr Birling in addition says: “There isn’t a chance of war”, the audience also knows that there were two World Wars both started from the Germans, which Arthur believes, will never happen. The audience will also react to the speech that Arthur makes about capital labour agitations because they know about the Wall Street Crash in 1929 and the Great Depression within a generation, but Arthur says: “In 1940…you’ll be living in a world that’ll for-gotten all these Capital versus labour agitations.” The several historical facts I have referred to above has proved Arthur incorrect and this is acknowledged by the audience.  

Birling is a man who believes that people, such as workers are looking for better deals of life are just traitors if you will. These traitors who oppose progress for their country, to him they stir up trouble and create unwanted publicity when he makes a speech and says: “we can’t let these Bernard Shaws and H G Wellses do all the talking. We hard-headed businessmen must say something sometime.” Arthur Birling doesn’t like these two authors because they were two men who opposed capitalists’ ideals and unlike Birling, did not believe it was the only way forward. Birling’s dislike comes from the fact that they were socialist visionaries who sympathised with the poor-workers; as so, the author of the play J B Priestley was also a socialist visionary who disliked capitalists’ ideals. Priestley very cleverly brought his points across in the play about capitalists and socialists’ differences using the character Inspector Goole with the socialist views and Arthur Birling with the capitalist points.

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Arthur knows that he has to look after number one-himself, because who else is going to do it? When one is ambitious and competitive with a will to win, you don’t look after or help others because this will slow your progress and drag you down.

It is very significant that the Inspector arrives and rings the doorbell the precise moment during Mr Birling’s aggressive speech against the community and promotion of the individual. It is as if Priestley is thinking, ‘Right, you’ve had your say now it’s my turn,’ in the form of the Inspector though, ...

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