Importance Of The Birling Family In Act 1

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An Inspector Calls- Act 1 What do we learn about the Birlings family In Act 1? During Act 1 the audience are acknowledged of the arrogance, vanity and carelessness of Gerald Croft and two members of the Birling family: Sheila and Arthur Birling. Their upper middle-class status is portrayed right from the beginning of the play; firstly through the presence of parlour maid Edna, present only to meet the needs of the Birling family, who Priestley not only uses to symbolize people of a lower class and the way in which they are used by the higher class to fulfil their own requirements but uses her presence in itself to indicate that the status of the Birling family are high enough to have a parlour maid. Mrs Birling explains to Edna that she will ‘ring from the drawing room’ when they ‘want coffee’ clearly expressing the purpose of Edna only to be someone to meet their needs. When the Inspector rings the doorbell later on in act one, Mr Birling is quick to say ‘Edna’ll answer it’ yet again expressing his higher status and control over her; her being a symbol of those lower in class. Mrs…show more content…
She is first to criticize her father’s decision to discharge her from his works stating ‘I think it was a mean thing to do. Perhaps it spoilt everything for her’ and realises ‘these girls aren’t cheap labour-they’re people’. The audience discover that Sheila ‘used the power as a daughter of a good customer and also of a man well known in the town to punish the girl’ by getting her sacked from her job after ‘having caught sight of this girl smiling at Miss Francis’ and admits ‘If she’d been some miserable plain creature, I don’t suppose I’d have done it. But she was pretty and looked as if she could take care of herself’. Although Sheila’s thoughts don’t immediately change, she comes to realise the consequences of her actions and accepts some blame unlike her
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