Mr Birling

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Regards himself as reasonable and pays the going rate to employees. Unable to grasp link between actions and consequences, or wider social/world issues. No concepts of value other than money and position (speech pg. 4 - Daughter as deal). Proud of his status and is a social climber (Daughter's marriage for status pg. 4, 8). Sees him & wife as upholding 'right' values and as guardians of 'proper' conduct. Is blind to issues of the day and has a false optimism for the future based on his inability to analyse the world around him (Future speeches pg. 6, 7). Speeches are used as a device by Priestley to show Birling's naïveté (ignorance), as all that he predicts is wrong (play written with benefit of hindsight in 1945).

Mr. Birling is almost a stereotype/caricature of the capitalistic businessman its inherent callous heartlessness. Note references to capitalism (pg. 6, 7), business (pg. 6 "hard headed businessman," 10 "mind his own business") and profit (pg. 14, 15).

He is proud of his status and reminds other of it (pg. 8 "knighthood" p.10 "Bench"), especially when trying to put the Inspector in his place (p.16 "golf"). He is so uneasy about these matters that he is uneasy about Gerald marrying Sheila (pg. 8). At the end of the play it is the possible loss of his knighthood that bothers him most, not his conscience (pg. 57).

Elements of Responsibility

Is it Arthur Birling's characteristics that cause him to be possibly irredeemable? He tries to distance himself from the situation because of the gap since his involvement (pg. 13, 17). He accepts no responsibility for his actions towards Eva (pg. 14, 37, 41,). He tries to make out the Eva is to blame (pg. 15, 16, 20). He identifies that he does not believe in community or taking responsibility for others (pg. 10)

He is also hypocritical and inaccurate in the advice he gives and comments he makes, as they do not match up to the way he, or his family, live (pg. 14 - "good advice," 16 - "face a few...
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