Hi everyone, I just wrote this up and was wondering what mark you'd give it. I'm interested to know as An Inspector Calls is my weakest eng lit topic (I've only answered one question previsouly to this).
So yeah, if you can please tell me what i did well, what i need to improve and the mark/grade id get. Thanks!
Arthur Birling describes himself as a ‘hard headed, practical man of business’. How does Priestly present these and other ideas in An Inspector Calls?
In JB Priestly’s ‘An Inspector Calls’, Arthur Birling is a key character within the play’s plot. His naivety and selfishness help Priestly to convey his socialist ideas to the audience and to portray how the old capitalist ways are simply no longer needed or wanted.
Mr Birling, it can be said, is obsessed with his business. It is the driving point of his life; his business made him what he is today (a wealthy middle class aristocrat). However, whilst his success may be good for him and his family, it has also made him become selfish and derogatory man. A the beginning of the play we see Gerald, A. Birling and Eric chatting between themselves about Gerald becoming engaged to Sheila. Whilst any normal man would be happy for his daughter to have found love, Mr Birling sees it as more of a business link to the higher class. He says “…and now you have brought us together…for lower costs and higher prices”. Mr Birling only cares for the business opportunities between “Crofts Limited” and “Birling and Company”, making him sound cold hearted and like a true “practical man of business”. It is clear that Mr B is motivated by money and social class rather than relationships and his family.
Priestly also tries to make Mr B sound unintelligent via the use of dramatic irony. Birling says “the Germans don’t want war…Nobody wants war”. As the play was written after the Second World War, we as the audience know that large scale conflict will happen. Priestly cleverly uses dramatic irony in regards to Mr Birling to make the audience not believe or properly acknowledge what he has to say and his views on the social class system. It is almost as if Birling is Priestly’s caricature for everything wrong with capitalist society; his naivety encapsulates the idea that the older generation is wrong and their views have made society what it is today – not right. This links with the theme of Young vs. Old – at the end of the play Sheila and Eric have accepted social responsibility whereas Birling is left “panic-stricken”. “panic-stricken” shows how Birling only cares for the consequences of Eva/Daisy’s death on his business, rather than the wider image that the Inspector was trying to convey – that if we don’t change our ways we’ll go down in “blood and fire and anguish”. It is clear that Priestly is commenting on how the capitalist views of the older generation simply aren’t the way forward, and that the only chance we have left to make things right is with the young generation.
Birling also believes that his previous positions of “lord mayor” and “alderman” make him more important than other people. He uses these positions as a buffer between him and lower society, for he once was a member of the working class until he married Sybil Birling. It almost seems as though the way Birling flourishes his statuses, such as a “knighthood”, shows how he is insecure about his position on the social hierarchy due to his constant referral to positions of power. He will do or say anything to keep his power, making him even more naïve and complacent. During his conversation with the Inspector, he often talks “impatiently”, showing that he is even trying to assert power onto the Inspector. We can infer from this that he is threatened by the Inspector as what the Inspector is revealing about Eva’s death could potentially destroy “Birling and company” and Mr Birling’s credibility. This further emphasises how Mr Birling cannot take social responsibility for it is what he has built his whole life upon, making his character appear to be uncaring and it also further shows the negative aspects of a capitalist society (which was the intended message of the play).
Overall it seems that Priestly uses Mr Birling in many ways to emphasise the problems of the older generation and the society that they have created. As Mr Birling himself says “a man has to mind his own business and look after himself” – this encapsulates how people shouldn’t be single minded and rather be as “one body”. Priestly wants to go out with the old and in with the new, to make society great again, and Mr Birling is a caricature to exaggerated this.
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Last edited by litlanglad; 14-05-2016 at 14:06.
- 14-05-2016 12:01