Arthur Birling at the Beginning of Act One in An Inspector Calls

Arthur Birling at the Beginning of Act One in An Inspector Calls
JB Priestly wrote the play of ?An Inspector Calls? in 1945 but set the
play in 1912, Edwardian Britain. The writer intentionally set the play
in 1912 to make the audience aware of social conscience. Another
reason why the play was set in 1912 was because, some of the
historical events mentioned in the play, the audience would be
familiar with as they would have lived through the time and would know
the real results of how they ended and what the causes were because
the era from which he set was very different to when he wrote the
play. In the play, when these events are mentioned, Arthur Birling
says the opposite to what actually happens such as when Birling said
there would be no war, world war 1 started two years later and world
war 2 ended in mid 1945; there were sturdy comparisons and
discrimination between the upper and lower classes in the 1912 era but
the class distinctions had significantly reduced in 1945 as a result
of two world wars; the ruling classes saw no necessities in changing
the status quo but in the time in which ?An Inspector Calls? was
written, there was a great passion for social change in the classes
and immediately after world war 2, Labours Clement Attlee won a
landslide victory over the conservative Winston Churchill. The main
events mentioned in the play are the world wars, would ?never happen
and the Titanic, which was ?unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable?.
One evening of happiness and bliss brings the Birling Family and
Gerald Croft to distress and truth, as they are celebrating the
engagement party of their Daughter Sheila to Gerald until an inspector
calls regarding the death of a young girl who had poisoned herself due
to her unhappiness. It turns out at the end of the play that each
character played a part in the cause of her death. The family in the
dining room surrounding the dining table; one of the objects of their
?good solid furniture? from their period. The atmosphere is
significant and deeply secure, but not cosy and homelike. The family
are clothed in evening dress, the men in white ties and tails; not
dinner jackets. The lighting at the beginning of Act 1 is pink and
intimate, which creates a warm, welcoming and friendly feeling, until
the inspector arrives and the lighting changes and becomes brighter
and harder. This makes the setting superior but the mood more disputed
when the Birlings and Gerald find out the reason behind the inspectors
arrival.

The role of Arthur Birling is as a social climber, with a lot of
businesses. He is former mayor and magistrate. He is very ecstatic
with his position and the last thing he would want is change. Birling
has achieved success in certain aspects of his life such as his
business, his wealth and his class but has failed in being a good
father, an employer or in any moral sense. The characteristics of his
roles are those such as, he is hard-headed and practical, which he
admits himself when he has a conversation with his wife, Mrs Birling,
and son Eric; ?I?m talking as a hard-headed, practical man of
business.? Arthur Birling has become an increasingly self-centred man.
Ever more, his ego has enlarged after there being an opportunity of
him being put on the honours list to be knighted. The main
characteristic of Arthur Birling, which occurs throughout the play, is
his selfishness and uncaring personality. This is part of the message
J B Priestly is trying to give out to the audience not to ignore the
situations around you and the feelings of others, regardless of your
status or wealth. He had no conscience of how he unfairly sacked the
girl who had an unhappy life with no family and no money to help her
survive; all for the reason that she started a strike for a pay rise.
That was the cause of the girl being sacked and the effect it had on
her resulted as one of the reasons of her suicide. The fact that
Birling had no guilt of what he did and no care for what happened to
the girl was the other message J B Priestly is giving out to the
audience.

One part of Arthur Birlings Character is his sarcasm. When he, and
his family were having a conversation with Gerald, Birling mentioned
his business rival, Sir George Croft, who is also Gerald?s father, and
said at there celebration party to Gerald ?It?s a pity Sir George and
- er ? Lady Croft cant be with us, but they?re abroad and so it can be
helped. As I told you, they sent me a very nice cable ? couldn?t be
nicer?. Throughout the play Birlings language has been Humorous but
sarcastic which brings out his arrogance. Also, a dramatic device
Priestly has used is Dramatic Irony. Arthur Birling is very
egotistical about himself and his wealth, and is always boasting about
how his position is supreme and it could only get better. Birling has
used dramatic irony a few times in his speech such as when he says
?We?re in for a time of steadily increasing prosperity?. Another
dramatic device used is Foregrounding. Priestly has used
foregrounding in the play many times to signal to the audience
something which is going to happen, he has also use it in the language
of Birling for instance when Birling is speaking bout his possible
knighthood, ?I gather there?s a very good chance of a Knighthood ? so
long as we behave ourselves?.

Arthur Birling has progressively become selfish and ignorant to his
family. In the era of which the play is set, Alcohol is a sign of
status and is a popular source in the Birling household. Arthur is
always offering his son Eric ?another glass of port? which has pushed
Eric to continue drinking more and more and he has become an alcoholic
for some time now and his father still hasn?t realized. Arrogance is a
major characteristic of Arthur Birling. When the inspector arrives to
their house on the subject of the young girls death, Arthur Birling
begins to get irritated with the inspectors questioning and then
begins to assure himself he and his family have no part in the girl?s
death and so it would be necessary for the inspector to leave but then
finds out he and his family played the most important part in the
girls death, and even after hearing that, he still tries to turn a
blind eye.

Some ideas and themes J B Priestly was trying to convey through the
character of Arthur Birling were Cause and Effect and Social
conscience. Clues, which are given in the play to the audience about
the result of Arthur Birling as the play progresses, are all found
with the language Birling uses to speak about himself. Also, His
characteristics show that as the story progresses, when Birling is hit
with a mistake he thinks he never made, he will face a major downfall
in his position in the society, and will lose respect from family
members employees and everyone else who has respected him.

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