Essay on the Significance of Mr Birling in an Inspector Calls

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Arthur birling is a wealthy, self made middle class factory owner of the Edwardian era. He is first introduced through the stage directions at the beginning of the play. Priestley describes him as "rather portentious" suggesting his own self importance. This is a characteristic of his attitude throughout the play where his ignorance, self regard and lack of respect for those of lower social status than him such as Eva smith shows the flawed mindset of the wealthy in 1912. Priestley exposed Birling as being a self interested capitalist whose lack of social conscience prevents him from learning the important lesson of social responsibility which constitutes the main message of the play. Birling is presented at the start of the play as being a social climber, a criticism of society's obsession of class and social hierarchy by priestly. He frequently name drops and refers to the Croft's wealth and success, and his own. At the celebration of his daughter Sheila's engagement party to Gerald Croft, he appears to care more of The Croft's aristocracy than his own daughters happiness which presents him as being a selfish man. Birling is also presented as being extremely opinionated. His own success as a "hard headed businessman" gives him entitlement to comment on matters of which he wields little knowledge. He makes proclamations about the titanic being "absolutely unsinkable" and the impossibility of war. These are clever uses of dramatic irony on Priestley's part to make Birling appear foolish to the audience who had the benefit of hindsight. They know that Birling's predictions work out quite differently. The audience would have therefore been less inclined to agree with Birling's views on social matters and responsibility, which he makes clear throughout the play. Before the inspector arrives, a pompous Birling ironically introduces the idea of social

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