An Inspector Calls Mr Birling Essay Topics

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  1. Like many of you, i also have my english lit edexcel exam on Monday , anyway, some people are saying that Mr Birling may be on the exam, so please can you mark this and give me feedback!
    Also, what else is most likely to come up?

    Mr Birling is the father, and leader of the contemptuous Birling family. He is described by Priestly as a ''Portentous'' man. Throughout the play, we see Arthur Birling being conveyed by the play write as a rather pompous and injudicious character. He shows no remorse or concern for his wrongful actions, unless they affect his social status. Birling is also portrayed as a defiant capitalist and extreamly narrow minded.
    Priestly presents Mr Arthur Birling and a ignorant and foolish character with us use of Dramatic Irony. As Mr Birling was delivering his speech at his daughter, Sheila's engagement, he mentioned that the titanic, was ''unsinkable, absaloutley unsinkable''. As the play was written in 1945, we know that this bold statement is far from correct. Instantly, Priestlys use of dramatic irony not only proves that it is a mistaken view, but it allows the audience to understand that Arthur Birling is not wise, but infact a rather stupid and injudicious character.
    Priestly is also conveying that Arthur is very narrow minded. He is only intrested in the present, and does not look to the future, Mr Birling does not have a open mind. Like most men at that time, they believed that nothing could change. They believed that the rich would always rule over the poor, that the labour ''cranks'' could never be a ruling government, and Arthur Birling represents these views.
    Moreover, Priestlys use of repetition on the word ''unsinkable'' suggests that Mr Birling in certain that he is correct, when infatc he is far from it, making him appear to be foolish.
    On the other hand, not only does Priestlys use of the infamous titanic make Arthur look stupid, but it is also a symbol of arrogance. The titanic was a ship for the rich aristocrats of 1912, those who thought they were the hierarchy of society, much like what Mr Birling would like to see himself as. So for priestly to use the titanic as a example suggests that Birling is also a arrogant and pompous chracter.
    Alternitavely,the dramatic quote ''unsinkable, absaloutley unsinkable'' is Priestly foreshadowing the Birlings sinking fate. Mr Birling is so certain that he knows about everything, yet he is not aware that soon he will have a mysterious visitor at the door.

    J.B Priestly uses Mr Birlings talk of war to convey his socialists views to the audience , and opress Arthurs capitalist views. Mr Birling portrays his narrow minded views on war when he says ''you''ll hear some people say that wars inevitable, and to that, i say- fiddlesticks!". The play was written around the time when the second world war was coming to a end, so the audience are aware that Mr Birlings optimistic views are again, incorrect.
    Also, the play was set in 1912, 2 years before the first world war, Priestly uses this small time frame to display Arthur as a injudicious character.
    Priestly was aiming to use the post word war vulnerability of the audience to opress capitalist views and project his socialist views. In 1912, the rigid class and gender boundaries ensured that nothing would change, however by 1945, these divisions had been breached. The writer is aware that audience to not want another war, and from watching this play, do not want times to be like 1912, so he used mr birling as a catalyst to project these negative views.
    Priestly id also saying that capitalists are also like Mr Birling, they all think they are correct, when infact they are far from it.
    Moreover, the writer uses the dramatic quote about ''war'' to remind the audience of what happens when certain individuals seek power for themselves rather than caring for others. His message is to encourage the people of 1945 to seize the opportunity the war had given them to build a better, more caring society.
    As Inspector Goole says, ''we are all members of one body'', dont you agree?

    Priestly also conveys Mr Birling as a imprudent character who only cares about his social status. His behavious remains like this throughout the play. When the inspector arriced, Arthur had to make in known that his soon to be son in law was aristocrat, the ''son of Sir George Croft''. Birling did not even introduce his own son, but rather dismissed him whenever he spoke. This suggests that because of social status, Mr Birling treats Gerald more like a son to gain some sort of social respect.
    Secondly, in 1912 it was uncommon to marry somebody out of your social class, Birling was aware that his family were slightly lower on the social scale than ''Crofts Limited''. However, he made sure that Gerald Croft was aware that he was soon to be added onto the ''honours'' list, so that the Crofts would not dismiss him.
    Even when the inspector left, Arthur did not show any sign or sorrow for Eva Smith, but he was rather more worried about it ruining his reputation. He did not want it to become a ''public scandal''. Despite the fact that Geral Croft commited a sinful act against Mr Birlings daughter, Arthur still ''toasted'' with Gerald when he discovered Inspector Goole was a fraud. Arthur was so happy and relieved that it would not become a ''public scandal'' that he would even drink with someone who caused his daugher pain and distress.
    Alternitavley, the fact that he ''toasted'' with Gerald suggests that he still wants to hold a relationship with him because of his social status. Arthur would use any excuse not to loose a bond with the son of ''Sir George Corft'', and not to loose the potential chance of going in buisness with the succesful ''Crofts Limited''.
    In 1912, witholding a relationship with a aristocrat meant that you could climb up the social ladder, there would be no risk of going on the streets, Eva Smith's summer affair with Gerald Croft is a clear example of this.

    Mr Birling did not learn the morals that Priestly presented through the play ''An Inspector Calls'. He did not understand the fact that sacking Eva Smith from his workplace for his own financial benefit was wrong. Unlike his two children, Eruc and Sheila, who actually acknowldge their wrongdoing and showed remorse. Infact, young Eric who was often dismissed by his ''portentous'' father told him he was ''ashamed'' of him for what he did.
    Priestlys purpose was to again, opress capitalists, and he used Mr Arthur Birling as a catalyst. Arthur was not willing to take responsiblity for his actions, but he infact only cared about how he would look to society. He does not care for people, or in this case, his employees. Priestly used Mr Birling to represent capitalists. He is presenting the message that like Mr Birling, they are not willing to change, and only care for themselves, not their supporters.
    As Mr Birling says '' a man has to look after himself''.
    As a reader, i do not empathise with Arthur Birling as he seems to fail to connect with the writers message of fairness and humblesness. The author portrays him as a foolish character and also uses dramatic irony that capitalists are the cause of diasaster such as war. Birling showed no remorse for a dead girl and even toasted with a adulterer. However, Priestlys use of conveying arthur as a pompous, imprudent and imperious character allowed me to understand socialist views, and to belive that we a''are all responsible'' for eachother, and that ''we are all members of one body''.


    Btw, it took me 2hours to write this! Any suggestions on how time saving techniques?
  2. Ignore me

Planning your answer

Before beginning an answer, it is important that you plan it carefully. You must ensure that all the points you make are relevant to the question and that you are addressing the assessment objectives.

Below is a structure you could use for your answer:

  1. Introduction - show you know where the extract is from.
  2. Who is Mr Birling?
  3. Point 1 - How is he presented in this extract?
  4. Point 2 - What ideas does he represent?
  5. Point 3 - How is he presented in the rest of the play? Does he change?
  6. Conclusion - sum up your main ideas.

Sample answers

Consider how Mr Birling is presented in the extract and the ideas he represents.

Sample answer 1

In this extract Mr Birling is shown as being ignorant; he makes a joke out of young peoples' behaviour, suggesting "you don't know what some of these boys get up to nowadays" but he does not know that his own son has been drinking heavily and mistreating Eva Smith. Mr Birling also shows that he is very arrogant, stating that "a man has to make his own way - has to look after himself" showing that Mr Birling believes that everyone should look after themselves. J B Priestley did not believe this. He thought we should look after one another. Finally, Mr Birling shows that he can be quite sexist. After talking to Eric and Gerald, he says that they will "join the ladies. That'll stop me giving you good advice". Mr Birling sees men and women as being two separate species: the advice he gives is only good for the men that he is with. This shows that he does not see men and women as equal.

Feedback - good but could be improved

  • This answers the question but there could definitely be further exploration.
  • There are good quotations chosen but they explain their impact rather than explore them. They could consider the impact on the audience further.
  • Some of the writer's ideas are mentioned but there is not enough detail. Ideas on age, social responsibility or context of the play are not mentioned.

Sample answer 2

Priestley presents Mr Birling in a negative light in this extract. Priestley does this by showing Mr Birling's ignorance when he says that they "don't know what some of these boys get up to nowadays." He is joking here about the behaviour of young men, but he has no idea that his own son has a drink problem, has stolen money from him and has had an affair that resulted in an unwanted pregnancy. Perhaps Priestley is making a point about gender and age, that older male role models do not take the excesses of younger men as seriously as they should. This lack of understanding between the generations is reflected again when Mr Birling states that "so many of you don't seem to understand now". Mr Birling again shows his ignorance, referring to young men as 'you', putting them all together in one group and not seeing them as individuals. Mr Birling’s ideas about social responsibility are summed up when he tells Eric and Gerald that is “a man has to make his own way – has to look after himself”. Here Priestley presents in a very obvious way Mr Birling’s selfish outlook and lack of concern for others, highlighting one of his key ideas in the play, that of social responsibility. Mr Birling doesn’t agree with the idea that we should look after one another “like bees in a hive”; Priestley strongly disagreed with this idea and used the play to try to convince the audience of the time that they should care for the needy, not just ignore them. It is interesting to note that whilst Mr Birling is in the middle of his speech, suggesting that a man should "look after himself and his own-and-", he is interrupted by the 'sharp ring' of the doorbell. This signals the arrival of the Inspector. The ring of the doorbell at this moment could be a suggestion by Priestley that it signals the arrival of a character who has the power to interrupt Mr Birling and to challenge his arrogant assumptions.

Feedback - much better!

  • This answer shows a good understanding of the question. The response is clear, thoughtful and evaluative.
  • The quotes are explored in detail, considering the impact of specific words. The impact on the audience could be looked at more.
  • The answer shows a clear understanding of the ideas that J B Priestley wanted to get across with this play and the points are explored fully. There could be a bit more detail around context - what were the issues at the time of writing?

Use the skills you have learnt and revised whilst reading this chapter and write your own response to An Inspector Calls. Time yourself and try to hit all the assessment objectives.

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