Mr Birling: An Inspector Calls


Mr Birling: Priestley's Message

  • Priestley felt strong about his political views in favour of socialism and these views are displayed prominently throughout An Inspector Calls.

  • Priestley uses the character of Mr Birling to represent how the upper class frowned upon people lower than them in society.

  • Priestley was concerned about the consequences of social inequality in Britain, and the disparity caused by wealth and class divide. He believed that what resulted from this were the characteristics of Mr Birling (selfish, arrogant, dismissive of other people, inability to admit responsibility for his part in Eva Smith’s death, exploitative tendencies, desire for power, lust)

  • Throughout the play, Priestley makes it clear that there is a consequence for every action. Through Mr Birling’s thoughtless actions of firing Eva Smith, his inability to admit his role in her death and wanting to cover up for Eric stealing money, priestley portrayed the evil side of money and capitalism, as well as his dislike for capitalism due to the lack of care in society for the poor.


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Mr Birling: Key Quotes, Act 1, part 1

Arthur Birling is a heavy-looking, rather portentous man in his middle fifties with fairly easy manners but rather provincial in his speech.

'It’s one of the happiest nights of my life'

'You’ve brought us together'- (companies not Gerald and Sheila)

'I’m delighted about this engagement'

'Silly talk'

'I speak as a hard headed business man'

'Silly pessimistic talk'

'Wild talk about possible labour trouble in the near future'

'We employers at last are coming together to see that of our interests- and the interests of Capital'

'I say fiddlesticks'

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Mr Birling: Key Quotes, Act 1, part 2

'I say there isn’t a chance of war'

'Unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable'

'German officers talking nonsense and a few scaremongers'

'By that time you’ll be living in a world that’ll have forgotten all these Capital versus Labour agitations.'

'Silly little war scares'

'There’ll be peace and prosperity and rapid progress everywhere'

'We hard-headed practical business men must say something sometime'

'I have an idea that your mother- Lady Croft-  while she doesn't object to my girl- feels you might have done better for yourself socially'.

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Mr Birling: Key Quotes, Act 1, part 3

'It’s about time you learnt to face some responsibilities- ironic as Mr Birling later on in the play refuses to take responsibility for his actions.

(abruptly)- to the inspector

'I was quite justified'

'I can’t think they can be of any great consequence'

(cutting in)- showing his authoritativeness

'We were having a nice little family celebration tonight. And a nasty mess you’ve made of it now, haven't you'- Birling is very arrogant and inconsiderate at the fact a girl has just died. He is very self centred and only cares about himself whereas Sheila is feeling guilty.


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Mr Birling: Key Quotes, Act 1, part 4

'She comes from an old country family- landed people and so forth'

'I gather there’s a very good chance of a knighthood'

'As if we were all mixed up together like bees in a hive' (compares with inspectors speech on pg 56)

(Rather impatiently)

'And you asked me a question before that, a quite unnecessary one as well'

'Rubbish!' - very dismissive of people’s views

'Well it's my duty to keep labour costs down'

'Perhaps I ought to warn you that he’s an old friend of mine' - using social class

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Mr Birling: Key Quotes, Act 2, part 1

'I protest against the way in which my daughter, a young unmarried girl is being dragged into this' - Eva Smith is unmarried as well but socially it is acceptable to exploit her because she is working class.

'No, for being so offensive about it. I’m a public man.'

'Look here, i’m not going to have this inspector. You’ll apologise at once'

'Is there any reason why my wife should answer questions from you, inspector.'

'You’re not trying to tell us that- that my boy- is involved in this?'


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Mr Birling: Key Quotes, Act 3, part 1


(very sharply) 'you heard what I said' - shows birlings authoritativeness and status in the family.

'Look inspector- I’d give thousands- yes thousands' (Birling offering money to keep the inspector quiet, shows his social class and status and the fact he would rather pay thousands of pounds than take responsibility for his actions.)

'You’re the one I blame for this'- ironic as Birling started it, pushing blame away from him.

'There’ll be a public scandal'

'There every excuse for what both your mother and I did- it turned out unfortunately that's all'- not facing up to his role in the death of Eva Smith.

'Haven’t I already said there’ll be a public scandal'

'He must have known I was an ex lord mayor and a magistrate and so forth.'

'He had a bit of information, left by the girl and made a few smart guesses'

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Mr Birling: Key Quotes, Act 3, part 2

'Downright public scandal'

'This whole damned thing can have been a piece of bluff'- not facing responsibility for actions

'I’m convinced it is, no police enquiry. No one girl that all this happened to. No scandal

There you are! Proof positive. The whole story’s just a lot of moonshine. Nothing but an elaborative sell.'

'Can't even take a joke' (but a sharp ring interrupts them- news unfolds)


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Mr Birling: Attitudes Throughout the Play

Mr Birling has not changed at the end of the play, like Mrs Birling, - he refuses to learn/ take on board the inspector’s lesson. Hence why the play ends with another phone call and the announcement of a second visit- perhaps from a real inspector. Priestly may be warning his audience the dangers of not learning a lesson of social responsibility.

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