How far does Priestley present Mrs Birling as an unlikeable character? Need feedback!

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dazzymc
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Hey. I finished this essay and was wondering if anyone would be able to read through it and maybe provide some constructive criticism and positive feedback for it? And, if you know, maybe a possible grade? Thanks!

Q. How far does Priestley present Mrs Birling as an unlikeable character?

Throughout the play, Mrs Birling is incessantly presented as a ‘cold’ and egocentric member of the wealthier proportion of society whose capitalist ideals and ignorant attitude causes her to be disliked by the audience and it is indicated that her character embodies the upper class women of society that Priestley ostracised.

The audiences first impression of Mrs Birling is that she is a powerful and insensitive character. Priestley presents her as ‘a cold woman’ and an unlikeable character through her speech, views and interactions with other characters. The adjective ‘cold’ conveys that Mrs Birling is unapproachable, unfeeling and not very welcoming towards others. Her power allows her to act in a controlling manner to people around her – including her own family. At the beginning of the play, she establishes control over her husband, and is described as his ‘social superior’. This shows she married down into a less wealthy family but will not stoop to his social level, and continues to maintain a higher status attitude towards people and in social situations. She often scolds him as if he were a child when he behaves in a way that is not acceptable for someone of a high status and she tells him he ‘mustn’t do that’. This illustrates to the audience her controlling manner and the word ‘mustn’t’ is presented as a command, further emphasising the point. Additionally, this behaviour and manner is reflected in how she speaks to and treats her children. For example, when Sheila begins to speak her opinions and take responsibility, Mrs Birling is quick to shut her down and scolds her for ‘behaving like a hysterical child’. The patronising tone of her voice insinuates her superiority and the word ‘hysterical’ is presented as rather insulting towards her daughter.

Priestley uses the character of Mrs Birling to represent the corrosive influence of power in the hands of unfeeling authority. Mrs Birling uses her power and authority to her advantage and this, in addition to her social position allows her to destroy the life of Eva Smith. The horrific actions of Mrs Birling are uncovered throughout the play and the audience soon discover that she refused to help a “friendless and penniless” Eva when she came to her charity out of desperation. Mrs Birling incessantly refers to her as a “girl of that class” as if she is not worthy or respect and her help. She makes it evident that she devalues the lives of people of a lower social status than her. This helps to express her uncaring, callous character and her harsh attitude is only further portrayed when she states ‘a girl of that sort would never refuse money’. This dismissive tone shows that she does not care for the girl’s problems – and it is apparent that she will not help her. She shows no remorse or regret and her attitude to others indicates that she believes that her (and many other higher status people’s) view of the class system is justified.

To a large extent, throughout the play Priestley presents Mrs Birling as an unlikeable character and her failure to accept responsibility and habit to redirect the blame shows that her fixed mindset is almost impossible to amend. It is apparent that she is unaware of her families actions and that she was oblivious to Eric’s drinking problem. During the Inspectors talk with the family, Mrs Birling makes it obvious that, in her opinion the ‘father of the child’ should be punished and she clearly ‘blame[s] the young man’ for Eva’s death. The irony of this being her own son is later revealed yet her previous, certain-tone highlights her attempt to push the blame away from herself. This links to how she refused to help Eva when she came to her charity for help and alludes to the fact that she did not only assist in killing the girl, but her ‘own grandchild’ as well. However, even after finding this alarming information out, she ‘simply cannot accept the blame’ and states that Eva has ‘no one to blame but herself’. This shows her ruthless character and, yet again that she will not accept any responsibility for her actions. Mrs Birling’s patronizing and egocentric attitude remains until the end of the play – and through this, Priestly may be emphasising how important it is for the attitudes of the upper/middle class to change in order for society to become equal and justice to be served throughout.

Priestly shows that Mrs Birling is unlikeable through the misuse of her power, treatment of those less fortunate than herself, and indicates how her narrow-mind and insensitiveness leads to other people being affected on her behalf. She is presented as unlikeable to the audience and remains this way until the end of the play, as, unlike the other characters, she find it impossible to accept responsibility for her actions.
Last edited by dazzymc; 4 months ago
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safaahmed33
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This is a detailed essay- it's really good. One thing our teacher always recommended us to do is at the end to link to a bigger picture argument and also more feedback would be to unpick quotes and really analyse them to get higher A02 marks.
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One thing to avoid would be telling the story so focus on the quotes and also include stagecraft in your essay e.g stage directions, the fourth wall, morality play, 7 deadly sins (in this case Mrs Birling's sin would be pride).

(Original post by safaahmed33)
This is a detailed essay- it's really good. One thing our teacher always recommended us to do is at the end to link to a bigger picture argument and also more feedback would be to unpick quotes and really analyse them to get higher A02 marks.
(Original post by dazzymc)
Hey. I finished this essay and was wondering if anyone would be able to read through it and maybe provide some constructive criticism and positive feedback for it? And, if you know, maybe a possible grade? Thanks!

Q. How far does Priestley present Mrs Birling as an unlikeable character?

Throughout the play, Mrs Birling is incessantly presented as a ‘cold’ and egocentric member of the wealthier proportion of society whose capitalist ideals and ignorant attitude causes her to be disliked by the audience and it is indicated that her character embodies the upper class women of society that Priestley ostracised.

The audiences first impression of Mrs Birling is that she is a powerful and insensitive character. Priestley presents her as ‘a cold woman’ and an unlikeable character through her speech, views and interactions with other characters. The adjective ‘cold’ conveys that Mrs Birling is unapproachable, unfeeling and not very welcoming towards others. Her power allows her to act in a controlling manner to people around her – including her own family. At the beginning of the play, she establishes control over her husband, and is described as his ‘social superior’. This shows she married down into a less wealthy family but will not stoop to his social level, and continues to maintain a higher status attitude towards people and in social situations. She often scolds him as if he were a child when he behaves in a way that is not acceptable for someone of a high status and she tells him he ‘mustn’t do that’. This illustrates to the audience her controlling manner and the word ‘mustn’t’ is presented as a command, further emphasising the point. Additionally, this behaviour and manner is reflected in how she speaks to and treats her children. For example, when Sheila begins to speak her opinions and take responsibility, Mrs Birling is quick to shut her down and scolds her for ‘behaving like a hysterical child’. The patronising tone of her voice insinuates her superiority and the word ‘hysterical’ is presented as rather insulting towards her daughter.

Priestley uses the character of Mrs Birling to represent the corrosive influence of power in the hands of unfeeling authority. Mrs Birling uses her power and authority to her advantage and this, in addition to her social position allows her to destroy the life of Eva Smith. The horrific actions of Mrs Birling are uncovered throughout the play and the audience soon discover that she refused to help a “friendless and penniless” Eva when she came to her charity out of desperation. Mrs Birling incessantly refers to her as a “girl of that class” as if she is not worthy or respect and her help. She makes it evident that she devalues the lives of people of a lower social status than her. This helps to express her uncaring, callous character and her harsh attitude is only further portrayed when she states ‘a girl of that sort would never refuse money’. This dismissive tone shows that she does not care for the girl’s problems – and it is apparent that she will not help her. She shows no remorse or regret and her attitude to others indicates that she believes that her (and many other higher status people’s) view of the class system is justified.

To a large extent, throughout the play Priestley presents Mrs Birling as an unlikeable character and her failure to accept responsibility and habit to redirect the blame shows that her fixed mindset is almost impossible to amend. It is apparent that she is unaware of her families actions and that she was oblivious to Eric’s drinking problem. During the Inspectors talk with the family, Mrs Birling makes it obvious that, in her opinion the ‘father of the child’ should be punished and she clearly ‘blame[s] the young man’ for Eva’s death. The irony of this being her own son is later revealed yet her previous, certain-tone highlights her attempt to push the blame away from herself. This links to how she refused to help Eva when she came to her charity for help and alludes to the fact that she did not only assist in killing the girl, but her ‘own grandchild’ as well. However, even after finding this alarming information out, she ‘simply cannot accept the blame’ and states that Eva has ‘no one to blame but herself’. This shows her ruthless character and, yet again that she will not accept any responsibility for her actions. Mrs Birling’s patronizing and egocentric attitude remains until the end of the play – and through this, Priestly may be emphasising how important it is for the attitudes of the upper/middle class to change in order for society to become equal and justice to be served throughout.

Priestly shows that Mrs Birling is unlikeable through the misuse of her power, treatment of those less fortunate than herself, and indicates how her narrow-mind and insensitiveness leads to other people being affected on her behalf. She is presented as unlikeable to the audience and remains this way until the end of the play, as, unlike the other characters, she find it impossible to accept responsibility for her actions.
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dazzymc
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(Original post by safaahmed33)
This is a detailed essay- it's really good. One thing our teacher always recommended us to do is at the end to link to a bigger picture argument and also more feedback would be to unpick quotes and really analyse them to get higher A02 marks.
Thank you. I was just reading over it and I think I also need to include more AO3/context. What I'm going to do now I think is re-read it all, and add context points, in addition to trying do what you said and explain quotes a lot more
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