bluey66
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Hey, just wondering if anyone could help with this just to check whether it is ok... I have to write it for a school assessment and not rly sure what to think about it, its quite long but it would be amazing to have some feedback. It's on An Inspector Calls

How far and to what effect does Priestley present Mr Birling as an untrustworthy character?
Write about:
• what Mr Birling says and does in the play
• how Priestley presents him by the ways he writes.

J. B. Priestly vilifies Capitalism through Mr Birling by presenting him as untrustworthy, pompous and selfish in this didactic morality play. The stage directions are one way to show how Priestly wished to present Mr Birling. Described as a “rather portentous man”, his foolishness and feelings of self-importance are implied by the adjective “portentous”. Another example is when he is described to be “rather provincial in his speech” which highlights that he is not actually from an upper-class at all. It emphasises that his social connections are from new money, his marriage and business. Although he might be a ‘big man’ in Bromley, this suggests that he’s not so important anywhere else. Therefore it is obvious when he is at pains to tell Gerald Croft of his knighthood and constantly overcompensates the Crofts which shows that he also has an anxious side and can be deferent, but only to social superiors.

From the very starting line of Act One: “Give us the port, Edna. That’s right”, Mr Birling demonstrates consumerism and his wealth all in an attempt to impress Gerald Croft. Throughout the play, some suggest that Mr Birling presents some of the Seven deadly sins, in particular gluttony and pride. Prior to the arrival of the Inspector, Mr Birling speaks mostly unchallenged and his long speeches form a hubristic monologue. This domination over the conversation shows his confidence in what he believes but it also indicates a constant desire to prove his power. An example of this is when he says “And after all, I don’t often make speeches at you - ”, the underlying threatening tone indicates the power over his family but is also ironic as he makes speeches more than “often”.

Priestly uses satire to expose Mr Birling’s ‘ignorance’ and dramatic irony to remove any confidence or trust in Mr Birling’s opinions although stated again and again. He is proved wrong on multiple fronts and therefore it makes it easy to think that he is wrong about everything, especially his communist views. For example, the exclamatory statement that the Titanic was “unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable”, it only furthers the audiences’ distrust in him. The Titanic could also be representing his own family, which appears to be untouchable at first. He also claims that “there’ll be peace and prosperity and rapid progress everywhere” which is constantly contradicted with the hindsight from the time it is performed to the time it was set in. The massive industrial unrest after WW1, the Great Depression in 1926-1929 and the “labour trouble” which actually ended with a labour landslide victory in 1945 were all quite the opposite that Mr Birling said would be. This enables Priestly to criticise Capitalists’ ‘understanding’ of human nature indicating that there is no one truth for the future.

Most characters so far have not dared to confront Mr Birling, however, they may have just seen it as pointless as he uses of imperatives and dismissive language such as “fiddlesticks” and “silly” makes it almost impossible to express any other view that isn’t his own. Gerald Croft, on the other hand, tends to openly agree with whatever Mr Birling says. Whilst this could suggest that Mr Birling is actually right and so trustworthy, it is more likely that Gerald only does this to relate to him which indicates that he is only more manipulative than Mr Birling. Both Gerald and Mr Birling use manipulation as a way to gain power over another person, however, whilst Gerald is more refined in his behaviour in social situations, such as his ‘rescuing’ of Eva Smith in the Palace bar, Mr Birling is blunter and appears to lack such behavioural skills, perhaps reducing more of his ‘power’.

When the Inspector arrives, Mr Birling obviously shows a strong dislike of him as he is a threat to his authority and so-called power. Overtime his language breaks down under the pressure of the Inspector’s questioning, using shorter and shorter sentences and more punctuation and ellipsis. For example when he says “she’d had a lot to say - far too much - so she had to go.” In addition to this, Mr birling begins to use colloquial language such as “y’ know” later on which can be drawn into direct contrast with Sheila’s opposite development from the colloquial “mummy” and “daddy” to standard “mother” and “father”.

A direct contrast can be drawn between Mr Birling and the Inspector throughout the play. The Inspector is Priestly’s mouthpiece to spread his own Socialist message and shine a light on the realities of Capitalism. On the other hand, Mr Birling is used to represent Capitalism and these clashing ideologies make him the antagonist. Their main points in the battle between egalitarianism and privilege are expressed in Mr Birling’s speech in Act 1 and the Inspector’s speech, an exact antithesis at the end.

The relevance of ‘An Inspector Calls’ today is debated by some, however, the popularity of Priestly’s didactic morality play should indicate clearly that it is. From 1910, when it was set, 1940, when it was released and even now, Priestly’s message and its apparent importance remain the same. Revealing society in how the characters react to the storyline is similar to revealing society by how an audience might now receive it. Therefore, its undiminished popularity raises questions on whether society has really changed on this front at all.

Priestly also uses Sheila’s engagement to Gerald Croft as another opportunity to discredit the idea of capitalism through Mr Birling. Although Mr Birling describes it as “one of the happiest nights of my (his) life”, it is questionable whether it is purely his daughter’s welfare that makes him so happy, or as yet another advance, similar to his own marriage to Mrs Birling, in the social structure. The ‘us’ in “you’ve brought us together” only suggests this once again as a night that he considers primarily as a business arrangement.

Although, Mr Birling can not be entirely perceived as a bad man, or as the villain that he has become to be known as a caricature. Some remorse and guilt are finally shown towards the climax of the play when he says, “Look, Inspector - I’d give thousands - yes, thousands -”, however not only is it too late but it also reveals his hypocrisy as he is willing to spare money to avoid scandal and ‘protect’ his family but did not have a penny extra for the workers in his business before. Priestly uses this as a driving point to show his opinion that Capitalist societies make people selfish and anxious.

Due to the play’s cyclical structure, it reveals the static nature of the older generation portrayed by Mr and Mrs Birling. They gain an unjustified sense of outrage after the reveal that Inspector Google was not actually part of the police, the play’s penultimate twist. However, their corrupt and unpleasant natures are no longer hidden and when the phone rings, Mr Birling is left “panic-stricken”. All of the family’s defiance and bravado is gone and Priestly can portray the callousness of Capitalism. Most would agree that Mr Birling’s power and control diminished throughout the play, however, some might argue that as he was so blindly wrong, he was never really in control in the first place.

In conclusion, ‘An Inspector Calls’ is a play with a point to prove so Mr Birling could never have been trustworthy from the very start because of Priestly’s motives to portray Capitalism as a corrupt system.
Last edited by bluey66; 10 months ago
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cward1
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(Original post by bluey66)
Hey, just wondering if anyone could help with this just to check whether it is ok... I have to write it for a school assessment and not rly sure what to think about it, its quite long but it would be amazing to have some feedback. It's on An Inspector Calls

How far and to what effect does Priestley present Mr Birling as an untrustworthy character?
Write about:
• what Mr Birling says and does in the play
• how Priestley presents him by the ways he writes.

J. B. Priestly vilifies Capitalism through Mr Birling by presenting him as untrustworthy, pompous and selfish in this didactic morality play. The stage directions are one way to show how Priestly wished to present Mr Birling. Described as a “rather portentous man”, his foolishness and feelings of self-importance are implied by the adjective “portentous”. Another example is when he is described to be “rather provincial in his speech” which highlights that he is not actually from an upper-class at all. It emphasises that his social connections are from new money, his marriage and business. Although he might be a ‘big man’ in Bromley, this suggests that he’s not so important anywhere else. Therefore it is obvious when he is at pains to tell Gerald Croft of his knighthood and constantly overcompensates the Crofts which shows that he also has an anxious side and can be deferent, but only to social superiors.

From the very starting line of Act One: “Give us the port, Edna. That’s right”, Mr Birling demonstrates consumerism and his wealth all in an attempt to impress Gerald Croft. Throughout the play, some suggest that Mr Birling presents some of the Seven deadly sins, in particular gluttony and pride. Prior to the arrival of the Inspector, Mr Birling speaks mostly unchallenged and his long speeches form a hubristic monologue. This domination over the conversation shows his confidence in what he believes but it also indicates a constant desire to prove his power. An example of this is when he says “And after all, I don’t often make speeches at you - ”, the underlying threatening tone indicates the power over his family but is also ironic as he makes speeches more than “often”.

Priestly uses satire to expose Mr Birling’s ‘ignorance’ and dramatic irony to remove any confidence or trust in Mr Birling’s opinions although stated again and again. He is proved wrong on multiple fronts and therefore it makes it easy to think that he is wrong about everything, especially his communist views. For example, the exclamatory statement that the Titanic was “unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable”, it only furthers the audiences’ distrust in him. The Titanic could also be representing his own family, which appears to be untouchable at first. He also claims that “there’ll be peace and prosperity and rapid progress everywhere” which is constantly contradicted with the hindsight from the time it is performed to the time it was set in. The massive industrial unrest after WW1, the Great Depression in 1926-1929 and the “labour trouble” which actually ended with a labour landslide victory in 1945 were all quite the opposite that Mr Birling said would be. This enables Priestly to criticise Capitalists’ ‘understanding’ of human nature indicating that there is no one truth for the future.

Most characters so far have not dared to confront Mr Birling, however, they may have just seen it as pointless as he uses of imperatives and dismissive language such as “fiddlesticks” and “silly” makes it almost impossible to express any other view that isn’t his own. Gerald Croft, on the other hand, tends to openly agree with whatever Mr Birling says. Whilst this could suggest that Mr Birling is actually right and so trustworthy, it is more likely that Gerald only does this to relate to him which indicates that he is only more manipulative than Mr Birling. Both Gerald and Mr Birling use manipulation as a way to gain power over another person, however, whilst Gerald is more refined in his behaviour in social situations, such as his ‘rescuing’ of Eva Smith in the Palace bar, Mr Birling is blunter and appears to lack such behavioural skills, perhaps reducing more of his ‘power’.

When the Inspector arrives, Mr Birling obviously shows a strong dislike of him as he is a threat to his authority and so-called power. Overtime his language breaks down under the pressure of the Inspector’s questioning, using shorter and shorter sentences and more punctuation and ellipsis. For example when he says “she’d had a lot to say - far too much - so she had to go.” In addition to this, Mr birling begins to use colloquial language such as “y’ know” later on which can be drawn into direct contrast with Sheila’s opposite development from the colloquial “mummy” and “daddy” to standard “mother” and “father”.

A direct contrast can be drawn between Mr Birling and the Inspector throughout the play. The Inspector is Priestly’s mouthpiece to spread his own Socialist message and shine a light on the realities of Capitalism. On the other hand, Mr Birling is used to represent Capitalism and these clashing ideologies make him the antagonist. Their main points in the battle between egalitarianism and privilege are expressed in Mr Birling’s speech in Act 1 and the Inspector’s speech, an exact antithesis at the end.

The relevance of ‘An Inspector Calls’ today is debated by some, however, the popularity of Priestly’s didactic morality play should indicate clearly that it is. From 1910, when it was set, 1940, when it was released and even now, Priestly’s message and its apparent importance remain the same. Revealing society in how the characters react to the storyline is similar to revealing society by how an audience might now receive it. Therefore, its undiminished popularity raises questions on whether society has really changed on this front at all.

Priestly also uses Sheila’s engagement to Gerald Croft as another opportunity to discredit the idea of capitalism through Mr Birling. Although Mr Birling describes it as “one of the happiest nights of my (his) life”, it is questionable whether it is purely his daughter’s welfare that makes him so happy, or as yet another advance, similar to his own marriage to Mrs Birling, in the social structure. The ‘us’ in “you’ve brought us together” only suggests this once again as a night that he considers primarily as a business arrangement.

Although, Mr Birling can not be entirely perceived as a bad man, or as the villain that he has become to be known as a caricature. Some remorse and guilt are finally shown towards the climax of the play when he says, “Look, Inspector - I’d give thousands - yes, thousands -”, however not only is it too late but it also reveals his hypocrisy as he is willing to spare money to avoid scandal and ‘protect’ his family but did not have a penny extra for the workers in his business before. Priestly uses this as a driving point to show his opinion that Capitalist societies make people selfish and anxious.

Due to the play’s cyclical structure, it reveals the static nature of the older generation portrayed by Mr and Mrs Birling. They gain an unjustified sense of outrage after the reveal that Inspector Google was not actually part of the police, the play’s penultimate twist. However, their corrupt and unpleasant natures are no longer hidden and when the phone rings, Mr Birling is left “panic-stricken”. All of the family’s defiance and bravado is gone and Priestly can portray the callousness of Capitalism. Most would agree that Mr Birling’s power and control diminished throughout the play, however, some might argue that as he was so blindly wrong, he was never really in control in the first place.

In conclusion, ‘An Inspector Calls’ is a play with a point to prove so Mr Birling could never have been trustworthy from the very start because of Priestly’s motives to portray Capitalism as a corrupt system.
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