Essay 1 ½ pages
(c) Select one of the members of the Birling family. Write a character study, using the text for reference, to show how Priestley uses the character to convey his own opinions and attitudes.
The playwright of “An Inspector Calls,” J.B. Priestley, was a dedicated supporter of socialism, and by writing this play, he vents his own opinions and attitudes through his characters. The play is set in 1912, two years prior to the First World War, in the home of a prosperous manufacturer, Arthur Birling. It is perceptible to the reader that a prevailing aspect of the play is Capitalism versus socialism. This theme centres on Arthur Birling, a Capitalist. A conspicuous trait in Arthur Birling is his egotism. If one analyses deeply, Birling, in fact, is a subject of satire; he is intended to be portrayed as a typical Capitalist. A man of wealth, he is a pompous snob of the upper hierarchy, often ostentatiously displaying his advantageous connections. “I might find my way into the next Honours List … a knighthood… I was Lord Mayor … when Royalty visited us,” he boasts to Gerald Croft. Besides, he is obviously elated to welcome Gerald into his arms as his future son-in-law. “You’re just the kind of son-in-law I always wanted” and “I’m delighted about this engagement” show that he is impressed by Gerald’s genteel family. This is rather amusing. J.B. Priestley wishes to point out his contempt for capitalist class systems by satirizing Arthur Birling; the reader can see that Birling’s vulnerability to high society is indeed shallow; the latter views the veneer of respectability as an honour. We ought to respect those with honour, ideals and determination; Gerald’s character is not particularly radical or persevering, yet Birling admires him for his wealth and gentility. Further illustrations of Birling’s character are in his eager remarks to Gerald, “we may look forward to the time when Crofts and Birlings … are working together – for lower costs and higher prices.” We can see his greed and parsimony; this is supposed to be a relaxed, joyous celebration, yet Birling must “talk business on an occasion like this.” It is clear that his desire for wealth cannot be restrained, even when he is supposed to be at ease. Later, we find proof of his avarice: he refused to raise the wages of capable employees despite being well-off. Priestley, being a Socialist, is concerned for the ill-paid lower classes. Birling shows an injustice in refusing to reward Eva Smith, a “good worker.” In fact, he can afford to raise her salary, which she deserved as she increased productivity, and hence, his earnings. Yet he is obstinate in his selfishness. Priestley wishes to show how shallow, money-grubbing and stingy capitalists can be; many things are to their advantage, as they held power and dominance over their social inferiors. If their employees go on strike, they are dismissed, as eva Smith was. There was little protection for workers then. Money is a destructive force an Priestley demonstrates his disdain for its risky influence. Its evil influence is portrayed in Birling, the puppet, as it obstructs our finer feelings. We ought to compensate those who work industriously towards higher profits, and give employees a right to live better lives and more equally. Responsibility hovers around the play. As an employer, Birling is responsible for his workers’ welfare. He is responsible for paying their wages and to provide them with a suitable workplace. /yet, we see that he refused to increase the renumeration of capable workers. It is his responsibility to provide them so that that can enjoy a life of sufficient needs. Indignant, his employees started a strike, and Eva Smith, who spoke out – understandably – for her rights, was dismissed. A young woman in her position had little to live on, and Birling who already behaved graspingly, ought to have re-employed her, to provide her with a job. In another perspective, this solution would have...
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