Mrs Birling: An Inspector Calls


Mrs Birling: Priestley's Message

  • She represents the wealthier, privileged class and their selfish attitudes.

  • She sees the lower class as morally inferior- Priestley hated this kind of attitude and believed that people with these attitudes had to change if society was going to work

  • She makes us see how awful life was for the lower class at this time (1912)- the class divide was huge

  • She played her part in Eva Smith’s death- she turned her away from charity when she needed help. The girl was penniless and pregnant- but Mrs Birling thought she was lying, as a ‘girl of that sort’ was not deserving of her money.

  • Mrs Birling’s attitude does not change throughout the play.  

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Mrs Birling: Key Quotes, Act 1

A rather cold woman and her husband’s social superior.

'Arthur you’re not to say such things'

'Sheila what an expression. Really the things you girls pick up these days'

'Now Sheila don't tease him. When you’re married you’ll realise that men with important work do sometimes have to spend nearly all their time and energy on business'

'Now Arthur I don’t think you ought to talk business on an occasion like this'

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Mrs Birling: Key Quotes, Act 2, part 1

Classist snob. Thinks she is socially and morally superior: ‘I don't suppose for a moment that we can understand why the girl commited suicide. Girls of that class’

'That- I consider- is a trifle impertinent, Inspector.'

'Please don't contradict me like that'

Accuse sheila of staying for: ‘nothing but morbid curiosity’

'I’m talking to the inspector now if you don't mind'.

Intimidation towards inspector: ‘you know of course that my husband was Lord Mayor only two years ago and that he's still a magistrate’

Lying to cover herself: ‘though naturally I don’t know anything about this girl’

'Over excited and she refuses to go'

Ignorant: ‘it would be much better if Sheila didn't listen to this story at all’

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Mrs Birling: Key Quotes, Act 2, part 2

Thinks upper class are perfect: ‘(staggered) well really! Aldermand Meggarty! I must say we are learning something tonight’

'I don’t think we want any further details of this disgusting affair'

'It’s disgusting to me'

Facade to make her look good: (with dignity) 'yes. We have done a great deal of useful work in helping deserving cases'.

'I don't understand you inspector'

'And if I was, what business is it of yours?'

Snob as Eva used her name: 'yes, I think it was simply a piece of gross impertinence- quite deliberate- and naturally that was one of the things that prejudiced me against her case'

'But I think she only had herself to blame'

'You have no power to make me change my mind'

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Mrs Birling: Key Quotes, Act 2, part 3

Snobbish attitude: 'if you think you can bring any pressure to bear upon me inspector, you’re quite mistaken. Unlike the other three, I did nothing I'm ashamed of or that won’t bear investigation.'

Gets rid of blame on her: 'I’ll tell you what I told her. Go and look for the father of the child. It’s his responsibility.'

Blames her own husband: (agitated now) 'oh stop it both of you. And please remember before you start accusing me of anything again that it wasn’t I who had her turned out of employment- which probably began it all' - no recognition she is in the wrong

'All that nonsense, I didn't believe a word of it'

Snob: 'As if a girl of that sort would refuse money'

'I blame the young man who was the father of the child she was going to have. If as she said, he didn't belong to her class and was some drunken young idler, then that’s all the more reason why he shouldn't escape. He should be made an example of. If the girl’s death is due to anybody, then it's due to him.'


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Mrs Birling: Key Quotes, Act 2, part 4

'I’m sorry she should have come to such a horrible end. But I accept no blame for it at all'

(severly) 'you’re behaving like an hysterical child tonight'

'Make sure he’s compelled to confess in public his responsibility- instead of staying here to ask questions, quite unnecessary questions, then you really would be doing your duty.'

Naive, ignorant: 'Idon’t believe it. I won't believe it'

(understanding now) 'But surely… I mean… it’s ridiculous.'


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Mrs Birling: Key Quotes, Act 3

(with a cry) 'oh Eric how could you?'

(very distressed now) 'No- Eric please I didn’t know, I didn't understand'

Snob- (triumphantly) 'didn’t I tell you? Didn't I say I couldn't imagine a real police inspector talking like that to us?'

'I felt it all the time. He never talked like one. He never even looked like one.'

'I wish I’d been here when that man first arrived. I’d have asked him a few questions before i allowed him to ask us any.'

'I was the only one who didn't give into him'

'Gerald you’ve argued this very clearly and I’m most grateful.'  


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