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In what ways does JB Priestley present the effect of the Inspectors visit on Arthur Birling in the play

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  • Category: Play

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Arthur Birling is a heavy-looking, rather portentous man in his mid-fifties with fairly easy manners but rather provincial in his speeches. At the start of the play Gerald Croft and the Birlings have all had a good dinner, are celebrating a special occasion, and are very pleased with them selves. They are celebrating Sheila and Gerald Crofts engagement. In the beginning Mr Birling is expecting Gerald to adopt his fathers business, meaning that Gerald will be the one giving the economic stability to Sheila when they are married. This proves that Arthur Birling thinks that men should be responsible for the economic affairs of their homes.

This character also shows that he only cares about himself when he says: “You’d think everybody has to look after everybody else, as if we were all mixed up together like bees in hive-community and all that nonsense. ” This tells the audience that Birling doesn’t like the idea of people looking out for one and another. In those days in the early 19th century it was normal for the husband to work and the wife to deal with the household and look after the children, this information helps us to understand Arthur’s way of thinking because that was what the people lived by and did in his day of life.

Arthur Birling doesn’t believe in looking after each other, he believes he knows all the answers and that he is superior to others when he declares: “take my word for it, you youngsters and I’ve learnt in the good hard school of experience that a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own. ” This explains that Arthur Birling is a very ambitious and competitive man, and suggests helping others may slow your process to achieve your objectives, which is not what he expects from a good society.

Arthur Birling sometimes gets carried away with his speeches in the play, when he is talking about what is going on in the world and what he thinks will happen. However when Birling says something will happen, he really means that he hopes it doesn’t happen. For example, he rejects predictions and fears of war because there is too much at stake for him. This is dramatic irony in the play because the following things he says will eventually go wrong. The audience will laugh at Arthur Birlings ironic speeches in the play because history has proven Arthur wrong, when he says: “We’re in for a time of steady increasing prosperity.

Arthur is wrong about the statement he makes because the audience knows the General Strike happened in 1926 and the continued rise of the Trade Union Movement. Mr Birling in addition says: “There isn’t a chance of war”, the audience also knows that there were two World Wars both started from the Germans, which Arthur believes, will never happen. The audience will also react to the speech that Arthur makes about capital labour agitations because they know about the Wall Street Crash in 1929 and the Great Depression within a generation, but Arthur says: “In 1940… ou’ll be living in a world that’ll for-gotten all these Capital versus labour agitations. ”

The several historical facts I have referred to above has proved Arthur incorrect and this is acknowledged by the audience. Birling is a man who believes that people, such as workers are looking for better deals of life are just traitors if you will. These traitors who oppose progress for their country, to him they stir up trouble and create unwanted publicity when he makes a speech and says: “we can’t let these Bernard Shaws and H G Wellses do all the talking. We hard-headed businessmen must say something sometime.

Arthur Birling doesn’t like these two authors because they were two men who opposed capitalists’ ideals and unlike Birling, did not believe it was the only way forward. Birling’s dislike comes from the fact that they were socialist visionaries who sympathised with the poor-workers; as so, the author of the play J B Priestley was also a socialist visionary who disliked capitalists’ ideals. Priestley very cleverly brought his points across in the play about capitalists and socialists’ differences using the character Inspector Goole with the socialist views and Arthur Birling with the capitalist points.

Arthur knows that he has to look after number one-himself, because who else is going to do it? When one is ambitious and competitive with a will to win, you don’t look after or help others because this will slow your progress and drag you down. It is very significant that the Inspector arrives and rings the doorbell the precise moment during Mr Birling’s aggressive speech against the community and promotion of the individual. It is as if Priestley is thinking, ‘Right, you’ve had your say now it’s my turn,’ in the form of the Inspector though, maybe.

It stops Mr Birling dead in his tracks and shows that Priestley, the writer can stop him and show him up at anytime he wants to, because Birling isn’t as powerful as he thinks he is. I have actually noticed that throughout the rest of the play, Mr Birling actually never goes back to the subject of downgrading a closer society. When Inspector Goole arrives at the Birling house the happy music in the background will stop and the warm and happy atmosphere will be drained away as he walks around. The Inspector will be wearing a white suit and hat and have pale skin and dark eyes to make his appearance more surreal and ghostly.

When the Inspector comes in Mr Birling is quite polite and friendly to him as he asks him to sit down and offers him a glass of port: “Have a glass of port-or a little whiskey? ” but the Inspector rejects the offer, when Birling starts to make conversation with the Inspector he starts to talk about his roles that he plays in society: “I was as alderman for years and Lord Mayor two years ago and I’m still on the bench so I know the Brumley police officers pretty-well. ” This is an obvious attempt to intimidate the Inspector, but the Inspector replies to this by saying: “Quite so. This upsets Arthur Birling greatly, as he is trying to show power and the Inspector ignored him.

When the Inspector accuses him of knowing Eva Smith, he denies all knowledge of her, but then when he is shown the photo he still denies it to start with. This behaviour by Mr Birling shows the audience he would rather lie, and not risk any trouble that to tell the truth. Later in the play Mr Birling starts to admit he knew Eva Smith and that he sacked her from his factory because she asked for a small increase in her wages. As the Inspector goes on and asks him more-and-more questions Birling becomes quite aggressive.

This might be caused by the fact that he is slightly frightened by the Inspectors questioning and by Eric’s unsympathetic attitude towards Arthur’s speeches and decisions. The tension starts to grow rapidly in the room when the Inspector starts inquiring about Mr Birling’s business, and Birling reacts very annoyed when he says: “I don’t see that it’s any of your concern of yours how I choose to run my business. Is it now? ” The Inspector responds with: “It might be, you know. ” At this point Arthur is irritated and retorts with: “I don’t like that tone. ” At this moment Arthur fells undersized by the Inspectors answering back towards him.

Arthur Birling then tries to threaten the Inspector by talking about his relationship with the Chief Constable: “… I ought to warn you that he’s an old friend of mine… we play golf together… ” the Inspector reacts by saying: “I don’t play golf. ” This demonstrates to the audience that the Inspector doesn’t take a lot of notice of this threat. The Inspector is not at all frightened and carries on interrogating Mr Birling. Birling doesn’t believe that he has a responsibility to society and the community since he thinks it is: “nonsense. ”

He is the kind of man that: “has to mind his own business and look after himself. This proves to the audience that Arthur is a competitive businessman and his judgement and criticism on society. Mr Birling dislikes the idea of: “everybody has to look after everybody else… ” Birling doesn’t believe that you need to join as a community to make things happen and improve the society that we live in. He believes that him a: “hard-headed businessman… ” just has to look after and rule of his home and business. As the play goes on and as each character tells their piece on how they were in contact with Eva Smith and how they played a part in her caused to death.

I would have the characters sitting in a chair around a large dinning table and the Inspector standing as if they were to be in a ‘hot seat’ in a television game show. I would have Mr Birling sitting at the head of the table and his wife, Sybil on the opposite end. Birling would be wearing a black dinner suit very smart and expensive. Also as each character shares their tale about Eva Smith, other actors would be re-enacting it on the side of the stage to give the audience a real look at what happened to them and Eva. Depending on the scene in the play music would be playing to set the mood for the atmosphere.

As each of the characters get spoken to by the Inspector I would have a spot light on them it would change the tones and colour of the lighting opposed to what is happening on stage. For example at the beginning of the play it would have warm, soft colours as the lighting unlike when the apprehension starts to build amongst the family and the Inspector. In act two the tension in the Birling house begins to increase greatly, the Inspector is pressuring the Birling’s and Gerald to tell their piece on how and when they met Eva Smith.

At first they all deny any knowledge of the girl, but as the play goes on the Inspector manages to show that they all helped kill her, Mr Birling had her dismissed from his factory for demanding a small increase in wages; Sheila ordered her to be dismissed from her job in a shop simply because of her pride; Gerald Croft kept her as her mistress before leaving her suddenly; Eric also had an affair with the girl and stole money to keep her living; and Mrs Birling used her influence to deny help to Eva Smith when she needed it most, driving her to suicide.

Arthur Birling thinks like a stereotypical male or I could be looking at it from hindsight. Moreover, he has a strong masculine way of thinking bigger, faster and better. Male society has a fascination about size, bigger of course been better! The Titanic was another piece of history that did the reverse of what Birling assumed and this time he has dramatically, ‘put his foot in it’. On an internet web-site it says: “The rumours say bureaucracy had a huge part in causing it to sink; money was the agenda ahead of lives.

Mostly the poor funded the Titanic’ sumptuous interior and maiden voyage, yet they were treated the worse. Britain became prosperous and dynamic in the industrial age through the help of sweatshops, yet the workers were treated terribly,” this is all known to the audience as they watch the play. Mr Birling works in a similar way, he is part of the bureaucracy and like it played a part in people fate on the Titanic, he played a part of Eva Smith’s fate. Arthur seems to be an upstart but only when it suits him. He also seems to be blatantly prejudice or even xenophobic towards Russia and its people when he says: “… hey’ll be peace and prosperity and rapid progress everywhere accept of course in Russia, which will always be behindhand naturally. ”

He is very confident and when he states things, he says it in a manner that says, ‘what I say goes. ‘ Everything he claims will eventually go wrong. Arthur also states that in 1940 one of his children maybe giving a party celebrating there children getting engaged. Although we don’t know whether Gerald and Sheila will be get back together after all the fiasco, let alone have children. Arthur also declares that he’s children in 1940 will be living in peace and prosperity: “… ou be living in a world of capital versus labour agitations and with out all those silly war scares… “, little does he know that the second world war started in 1939 and finished in 1945.

Mr Birling supports his wife the most out of the whole family, as he gets very angry and tells the Inspector to, “apologise” to his wife for being rude, unlike where and when the Inspector was rude to Sheila he did not do anything. The most dramatic and disturbing part of the play is when Mr Birling finds out that his son, Eric, is shown to be a thief, is under the influence of alcohol and is responsible for fathering a child.

Birling is extremely ashamed of his son, when he says: “You damned fool why didn’t you come to me when you found yourself in this mess” and then Eric replies with: “you’re not the kind of father a son goes to when he needs help. ” These quotes above tells the audience that the relationship between Arthur and his son has never been stable even before the Inspector arrived and also shows us that Arthur isn’t as perfect father as he thinks he is in the play.

After the Inspector has left, Birling is very angry and depends on putting all of the blame on Eric; this proves the Inspectors point that Birling has, “learnt nothing. ” Priestley is trying to tell the audience what attitude most upper-class business people had. And that most of them only really cared about their reputations. This proves Priestley correct, when Arthur exclaims: “there’ll be a public scandal”, not even caring how Eric fells and Arthur is extremely selfish when he says: “you don’t seem to care about anything,” when really he is the one who cares for nothing but himself and his knighthood.

At the end of the play Mr Birling thinks everything is all right and goes back to the way he was before the Inspectors arrival because Gerald has found out that he wasn’t a real Inspector so Arthur declares: “This makes a difference, y’know. In fact, it makes all the difference. ” He and his wife Sybil do not realise that they have to take responsibility for their actions, whether you are rich or poor. Unlike there children who have learnt they were in the wrong and have owned up to their mistakes. Birling does not realise that what he does or has already done can destroy a persons life.

There is a possibility that the audience do fell sorry for him at the end of the play when his relief that the incident is over and done with is shattered by the telephone call. In the play Priestley is trying to show the audience and the world that we should look after one and another and this is why the play is still relevant today. Eric is more in touch with the different tiers in society, than Birling, who is old-fashioned and set in his ways, when Arthur Birling says: “It isn’t if you can’t go and work somewhere else”.

This also gives the audience a clearer picture of how hard it was to get a job, which creates sympathy among them. The Inspector tells Gerald and Birling than it is, “better to ask for the world than to take it” which shows that the Inspector believes that Eva and her group were right to ask for a pay rise and should not have been punished for it. This creates sympathy, as Arthur Birling was the one that was ‘abusing’ the working class in the first place so the audience realise that everybody is ganging up on him.

All through the little speeches made by the Inspector about the working class, Mr Birling is very quiet and is obviously taking it all in, and maybe secretly taking note in order to mend his ways. The audience will see Birling on stage, very quiet, and again will sympathise with the working class as they see him thinking about it and considering, possibly, how low their quality of life was. I believe: ‘Arthur Birling has learned how to build walls to protect him and if another Inspector came then he would probably keep quite and show no emotion.

The experience has not made him more caring towards people; he will probably treat his workers in the same way. However, he will probably be cleverer to ensure that nothing like this will happen again. I do not think he has learned anything positive from his experience because he does not have an open mind. He is unwilling to accept the fact that sometimes he is in the wrong and some people do know more than him. He does learn more negative things than positive things but still we can see that he is slightly more open-minded than his wife, Sybil Birling.

Arthur Birling is a pompous and self-important man and he is crucial thespian in the play because he represents the upper-middle-class people’s attitude towards the working-class people. ‘ The effect of the Inspectors visit on Arthur Birling in the play is the most crucial because even though after some of the most vital and dramatic speeches from the Inspector, Birling still carries on demonstrating himself to be the most high status in society and believes in taking care of his Business, his home and himself.

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