English Literature: An Inspector Calls Character Profile - Arthur Birling

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Give a brief description of Arthur Birling
He's head of the Birling family and the boss of his own company. He plays golf with the big shots, but he's so bothered about money and power that he can't think about anything - or anyone - else.
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Quote to support the view Arthur Birling is ambitious
"there's a very good chance of a knighthood"
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Quote to support the view Arthur Birling is business-minded
"a hard-headed, practical man of business"
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Quote to support the view Arthur Birling is selfish
"a man has to make his own way"
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Quote to support the view Arthur Birling is anxious
"there'll be a public scandal - unless we're lucky"
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What happens to Birlings authority as the play progresses?
It is undermined. The Inspector reveals Birling as an ambitious, anxious man who'll ignore the needs of others to keep up profits and a good reputation.
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Give an example of Arthur Birling liking to be in control and reminding everybody that he is in charge.
Birling doesn't want to be told what to do and "angrily" tells the Inspector "Well - if you don't mind - i'll find out first"
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How is Birling's confidence portrayed through his roles?
He is head of his family and the boss of his own business.
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What technique does Priestley use to make Birling's optimism foolish and short-sighted? What does this undermine?
Dramatic irony. It undermines his authority.
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What does Birling see his daughter's marriage as?
A business deal and hopes it will bring "lower costs and higher prices". It is hinted that his company could merge with the larger company owned by Gerald's father.
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Why does Birling think he's successful?
Because he's a "hard-headed, practical man of business" He has the same attitude to all areas of his life.
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How is it shown that Birling is very optimistic about the future?
He thinks that strikes won't be a problem for his company and dismisses any fear of war as just some "silly little war scares"
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Talk about the theme Social Class
Birling's a wealthy business man, but it was more prestigious to come from an "old county family" like the Crofts, that had land, inherited wealth and titles (e.g. Lord and Lady)
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Talk about the Theme Social Responsibility
Birling dismisses the idea of social responsibility. He calls people like Goole "cranks"
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How is Birling's characteristics of Selfish and Self Centred portrayed?
He'd rather pass off the Inspector's visit as a "hoax" or a joke then face up to what he has done.
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How did Birling worsen the Eva Smith strike situation?
He didn't just refuse them higher wages, he personally fired the ringleaders of the strike (Eva)
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How is it shown that Birling finds it difficult to think about other people?
He doesn't believe in "community and all that nonsense" He sees other people as "cheap labour"
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What does Priestley's description of Arthur Birling ("provincial in his speech") suggest?
Means he has a regional accent. Accent and social class were closely linked, so it would be clear that Birling was a middle-class businessman rather then upper class.
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What does Birling's continuous speech throughout the play suggest? Give an example.
He likes to talk and doesn't like being interrupted. When Eric tries to correct him, Birling ignores him, saying "Just let me finish, Eric"
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What do Birling's constantly used phrases of "Rubbish" and "of course" suggest?
"Rubbish" to dismiss what others have said. "Of course" to finish of his own sentences, to make his own claim seem obvious and matter-of fact.
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How is it shown that Birling is desperately trying to win the Crofts' approval?
Because he talks about a knighthood and gets Gerald father's favourite port.
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How does Birling try and make himself seem more important? Give an example.
By drawing attention to his connections with influential people - e.g. he plays golf with the Chief Inspector
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What does the Inspector threaten of Birling's?
His middle-class values - the reputation of his company and his important connections. Birling is rattled by this. He has spent his entire life believing that these things matter.
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What is Arthur Birling obsessed with? What terrifies him about this?
He is a public figure and obsessed with his status. He's terrified when his good name's threatened and would "give thousands" (a bribe) to avoid a scandal
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What does the Inspector do that Birling isn't used to?
He challenges Birling. The Inpsector barely says twenty words before Birling shows "a touch of impatience"
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Who does Arthur Birling blame for his family falling apart?
He blames the Inspector for making a "nasty mess" of the nights celebrations, and there's nothing Birling can do about it.
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Other cards in this set

Card 2

Front

Quote to support the view Arthur Birling is ambitious

Back

"there's a very good chance of a knighthood"

Card 3

Front

Quote to support the view Arthur Birling is business-minded

Back

Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4

Front

Quote to support the view Arthur Birling is selfish

Back

Preview of the front of card 4

Card 5

Front

Quote to support the view Arthur Birling is anxious

Back

Preview of the front of card 5
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