Mr Birling

  • Created by: Riya2105
  • Created on: 11-05-20 15:12

Priestley uses the Birling family in ‘An Inspector Calls’ to portray the attitudes of various people, belonging to different classes during the time the play was set, 1912. Mr Birling, who ironically believes he belongs to a well-behaved and respectful family, continuously avoids accepting responsibility for his mistreatment of Eva Smith. Throughout the play, he is displayed as an incredibly self-righteous and pompous individual which immediately encourages us to disfavour and mistrust him. Mr Birling represents the materialistic businessmen in the Edwardian era who only cared for themselves. Moreover, he is a dominant male- a patriarch who considers himself superior to women and people less well off than him. Priestley uses him to show the audience that the unprivileged, such as Eva Smith, will continue to suffer if people like Birling remain in positions of power. Also, Mr Birling, along with Mrs Birling, undeniably appear as arrogant and dismissive, which compels us to despise them. 


Initially, Mr Birling makes long speeches at dinner, and firmly believes that the Titanic is “unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable”. The adverb “absolutely” conveys that Birling is impulsive and hasty, and also portrays his determination as he constantly supports his inaccurate predictions with false certainty. For example, the repetition of the adjective “unsinkable” implies that Mr Birling wants to sound self-assured to attempt to prove his worth to Gerald, who belongs to a higher social class than himself, by presenting his knowledge within the political and economical world. Alternatively, the use of repetition indicates that Mr Birling is truly reassuring himself, as he is unaware of what will happen in the future. Priestley intentionally uses dramatic irony in order to make the audience lose trust in him as the audience is aware that the Titanic sank in the same year the play is set. Additionally, Mr Birling’s misguided beliefs about the Titanic demonstrates to the audience that he is a rather foolish man, with very little to say that is of much worth, which supports Priestley’s representation of him as a physical embodiment of the upper class Capitalist gentlemen in 1912. Therefore, Priestley successfully presents Mr Birling as an unlikeable character by


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