How does Priestly present Mr Birling presented 'An Inspector Calls'? Watch

Badges: 6
Report Thread starter 4 months ago
Hi. I have a test soon which I know will be based on Mr Birling from An Inspector Calls. I want to make sure the points that I'm making are valid and that I'll be able to get a good mark for it. I'd really appreciate it if somebody could read through this and help give me some pointers as to where I need to improve and what I've done well.

How does Priestly present Mr Birling presented 'An Inspector Calls'?

Mr Birling is the head of the Birling family and the boss of his own business, Birling and Co. He is described as being a 'portentous man' and has 'fairly easy manners' which gives the audience the impression of a pompous and injudicious character. Mr Birling shows great interest in social class and wishes to be of a 'higher' status. Arthur Birling is ambitious and a defiant capitalist, but in reality is depicted as a somewhat anxious man. He believes he is a "hard headed man of business" and has strong capitalist views.

Priestly presents Mr Birling as narrow minded through the use of dramatic irony. When Eric suggests the possibility of an upcoming war, Mr Birling states "The Germans don't want war" and "nobody wants war". However, the audience of the time the play was first performed (1945) know that only two years after the play is set (1912) The First World War broke out with Germany being involved. Furthermore during 1945 Britain was coming towards the end of World War Two with Germany. Priestly highlights how Mr Birling is a foolish man. Mr Birling talks about how the Titanic (which went on her maiden voyage in 1912) is "unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable". Priestly continues to use dramatic irony to emphasise the arrogance of Mr Birling as the Titanic sunk on it's first and only voyage. Priestly’s use of the Titanic could also be seen as a metaphor which foreshadows the downward fate of the Birling family, regardless of how Mr Birling believes it’s “unsinkable”.

Mr Birlings imprudent behaviour is presented by Mr Birling through his political beliefs. Mr Birling is a defiant Capitalist who looks down on "cranks" who have more socialist beliefs. He believes he has authority based on his wealth and social prestige whereas the Inspector has authority deriving from moral interpretations. J.B Priestly uses the simile "mixed up together like bees in a hive" and "community and all that nonsense" through Mr Birling to show his demeaning views on socialism. The noun ‘bee’s’ shows how he compares socialists to animals. This is ironic as the Inspector later refers to Eric treating Eva Smith like an ‘animal’. Priestly intends to make the audience feel as though Mr Birling is small minded in his views, which are capitalist, and in turn promote Priestly’s socialist views. J.B Priestly established many socialist organisations and presented the popular BBC radio programme ‘postscripts’ which was cancelled by the Government for being too left-wing.

Mr Birling is the first to be investigated by the inspector. He is completely remorseless and like Mrs Birling accepts no responsibility. The quote “I can’t take any responsibility” shows isn’t willing to accept the consequences of what he has done, which shows he is an antagonist. This contrasts the younger generation who do take responsibility for their involvement in Eva Smith’s death. The playwright shows the potential of the younger generation moving forward towards a brighter future in terms of moral, justice and an altruistic society. Mr Birling is completely self absorbed in his reputation. He says “there’ll be a public scandal” which highlights how he shows no concern for the tragic events that were and lead up to Eva Smith’s death. He is only worried about his potential loss of knighthood and the damage to his own reputation.

To conclude, Mr Birling is presented by J.B Priestly as a pompous and injudicious man. The audience will fail to empathise with him due to the playwrights use of dramatic irony and Mr Birlings ignorance. Mr Birling fails to learn from the Inspector (unlike his children) and is happy to toast to the man who had an affair with his own daughter.

Thank you very much!

Quick Reply

Attached files
Write a reply...
new posts
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.


University open days

  • University of Birmingham
    Postgraduate Open Day Postgraduate
    Wed, 20 Mar '19
  • King's College London
    Postgraduate Taught Courses - Arts & Sciences - Strand Campus Postgraduate
    Wed, 20 Mar '19
  • University of East Anglia
    All Departments Open 13:00-17:00. Find out more about our diverse range of subject areas and career progression in the Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences, Medicine & Health Sciences, and the Sciences. Postgraduate
    Wed, 20 Mar '19

Where do you need more help?

Which Uni should I go to? (35)
How successful will I become if I take my planned subjects? (21)
How happy will I be if I take this career? (51)
How do I achieve my dream Uni placement? (37)
What should I study to achieve my dream career? (31)
How can I be the best version of myself? (74)

Watched Threads

View All