A closer look at Mr Birling
A self-made man... The opening scene establishes Mr Birling as a powerful man- in society and in his own family.
An impressive CV... So far, he has been: • A magistrate • Lord Mayor • A prosperous employer, owner of Birling and Co And in future... • He hopes for a knighthood • And to be related to the aristocracy through Sheila’s marriage to Gerald
Within the family... • He is patriarchal: You’ve a lot to learn yet • He patronises his children: you youngsters... • His wife refers to him respectfully: ...men with important work to do... • But she is happy to contradict him: Now Arthur, I don’t think you ought to talk business on an occasion like this • He is very pleased to have Gerald as a future son-in-law: your engagement to Sheila means a tremendous lot to me ...he looks forward to a merger of the two businesses.
His values • He speaks as a hard-headed businessman And he is wrong about: • The forthcoming war • The general strike • The Titanic • Peace and prosperity in the 1940s- very ironically for the play’s first audience The author’s purpose is to establish him as a powerful and influential man- who is nevertheless mistaken about many things.
He resists being judged... When the Inspector arrives, Mr Birling tries to patronise and intimidate him: How do you get on with our Chief Constable, Colonel Roberts....We learn that he sacked Eva Smith, a ringleader of a strike at Birling and Co, who wanted an increase of two shillings and sixpence (12 ½ pence). He shows no interest in the fate of Eva Smith after she left his factory and denies any responsibility for her. I was quite justified.
The author’s purpose • The author intends Birling to represent people in society who are: • Rich • Selfish • Unwilling to change • Unwilling to take any responsibility for the society they live in
BIRLING You'll apologize at once ... I'm a public man - INSPECTOR [massively] Public men, Mr. Birling, have responsibilities as well as privileges. But take my word for it, you youngsters - and I've learnt in the good hard school of experience - that a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own - and - We hear the sharp ring of a front door bell. A friend of mine went over this new liner last week - the Titanic - she sails next week - forty-six thousand eight hundred tons - forty-six thousand eight hundred tons - New York in five days - and every luxury - and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable.
So what does Priestley use • to bring Birling to life? • Props (ornaments, food, drink, dress) • Stage directions (actions, adverbs) • Dialogue • His treatment of others • How others treat him • Contrasting characters • Structure of scenes etc