Mrs Birling is one of the principle characters in An inspector calls – she is used to portray the idealistic views held by the upper-class at the time. Mrs Birling is presented by Priestly as the body of Capitalism – by portraying her in a negative light allows the reader to draw assumptions between the negative characteristics portrayed by Mrs Birling and the negative aspects of a capitalist society, which is what Priestly intended to do.
Our first impressions of Mrs Birling come from the following quote used to describe her, 'A rather cold woman,' - the use of the word cold suggests a lack of emotion – of substance there, which is strange considering her life is initially put across to the reader as a vision of perfection full of 'desert plates and champagne glasses,' This immediately sets the tone for the rest of the play as here as Priestly suggests here that some people fail to see what is directly in front of them – Mrs Birling is so focused on conforming to her stereotypical 'upper-class' title that she doesn't appreciate the riches that she already has. The notion of maintaining a certain image is developed further by Priestly when we see Mrs Birling's embarrassment when her husband complements the cook, 'Arthur, you're not supposed to say such things-’ Her life is governed by her notion of correctness – as soon as someone behaves in a way which does not live up to their social expectations in society – she reprimands them. This expresses her narrow-mindedness as there is no flexibility here to step out of this stereotype – Priestly does this to portray the idea that in a capitalist society you are in a sense 'trapped' as there is no escaping these idealistic views thrust upon you from a very early stage which also implies that Mrs Birling is a product of her capitalist upbringing. This introduces Ouspenky's theory to the play which suggests that after death we will re-enter our lives in a continuous cycle of the same events from birth which will...
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