Arthur Birling He is described at the start as a "heavy-looking, rather portentous man in his middle fifties but rather provincial in his speech." J.B. Priestly presents Arthur Birling as a self obsessed, work oriented “hard-headed business man” in Act 1. The stage directions describe him as a “heavy-looking, rather portentous man” giving an impression that he looks rather threatening. He is very traditional and speaks formally, even around his family. He has worked hard to raise himself up the social ladder and is proud to think that he’s going to be knighted. Even at his daughter’s engagement party, Birlings' head is still wrapped around business and this is evidently shown when he says “Your father and I have been friendly rivals in business for some time now.... and now you’ve brought us together, and perhaps we may look forward to the time when Crofts and Birlings' are no longer competing….” He also states that the party is “one of the happiest nights of my life” but this could have a double meaning for not only is Sheila getting married, but it can be seen as a business opportunity. These quotes show that Birling is very work oriented and uses Sheila’s marriage for his own selfish reasons.
As well as being selfish, Birling is rather overconfident in his opinions. His