How Does Mr Birling Change Throughout The Play

Topics: Goals In Life

This essay sample essay on How Does Mr Birling Change Throughout The Play offers an extensive list of facts and arguments related to it. The essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and the conclusion are provided below.

In this essay I will discuss how the characters of Arthur and Sheila Birling change during the course of the play ‘An Inspector Calls’. This essay will explore the characters Arthur and Sheila Birling in depth looking at their development through the play. The essay will also describe how Arthur and Sheila Birling change from the beginning of the play to the end.

The play ‘An Inspector Calls’ was set in 1912 but written in 1945 by JB Priestly. He uses the time difference effectively to give an overly confident and slightly stupid look to the Mr Birling in his views on the future.

JB Priestly uses dramatic irony to show this with Birling’s comments on: WW1, Mr Birling says “The Germans don’t want war” but we all know that WW1 started two years later in 1914 and ended in 1918 with the Germans losing.

Mr Birling thought the Titanic was “absolutely unsinkable”, but it wasn’t, it hit an iceberg and sank in the north pacific in April 1912. There were many strikes in 1925 and then a general strike in 1926, Mr Birling says “there’s a lot of wild talk about possible labour trouble in the near future” making him look smart as he said it in 1912.

You’re Squiffy An Inspector Calls

He also says that “we’re in for a time of ever increasing prosperity” and Wall Street crashed in 1929, leading to the 1930s being called the great depression because lots of people had no money or work.

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This time difference makes the Audience more knowledgeable than the characters and makes the audience think that the characters are stupid in the things they say and do. Priestly believed in an equal political system (a socialist), but the theatre director Stephen Daldry thought he was “a radical”.

JB Priestley’s son Tom thought that his father was “trying to ensure that the life after the war had been better than before. He was echoing the feelings of ordinary people that there was generally a need for a change”. In a radio broadcast Priestly said that after and during the war people had a sense of community and purpose, which was doing well for others as well for themselves. Too many people only think about themselves and what is best for them. So he wrote about what happens to people who are selfish and what they can cause. Arthur Birling is a heavy-looking, rather portentous man in his middle fifties with fairly easy manners but rather provincial in his speech”. He is also a well-dressed smart man, and likes to keep up his good appearance. At dinner with the family the men are in “tails and white ties”. He uses pompous language and is full of self importance. He feels that what he has to say is more important than what anybody else has to say, like when he interrupts Eric “just let me finish”. He doesn’t stop to think that what Eric has to say might be important.

He also talks about all the people he knows that are important “our Chief Constable, Colonel Roberts”, and his business “I’m talking as a hard-headed, practical man of business”. He gives the audience the first impression of him of being arrogant, a business man, job orientated and greedy for money, “lower costs and higher prices”. He started the whole chain of events off with Eva Smith. Mr Birling decided to sack her from one of his machine shops for asking for a pay rise, which Mr Birling “refused, of course”. Also she was a ringleader of the strike which took place after he refused the pay rise.

He described her as having “a lot to say – far too much”. “Sheila Burling is a pretty girl in her early twenties, very pleased with life and rather excited”. Sheila uses slang language, “you’re squiffy”, and she uses that expression to tell her brother Eric he is drunk. She is also apologetic and is very truthful and says what she thinks “I’m really responsible”. Sheila gives a first impression of being a rather spoilt “young thing”, childish, always wanting to be the centre of attention and deeply in love with Gerald, “I drink to you, Gerald”.

Sheila Birling got Eva Smith sacked from her next job at clothes shop Milwards, Sheila was in a terrible mood and when she was trying on a dress, Eva smiled at her “as to say doesn’t she look awful”, which Sheila did not like; She went to the manager of the shop and said Eva was being impertinent, and that if Eva wasn’t sacked, she would close her family’s account. Eva was automatically sacked. Arthur Birling develops through the play from being cheerful at the beginning, in celebration of Sheila’s marriage to Gerald, then more rude and impatient as the inspector starts questioning him.

After the inspector is deemed a fake he goes back to being normal, big headed and arrogant. He interacts with the inspector well at first until the inspector starts questioning him. Mr Birling becomes impatient with the constant questions “did you say why? ” He then keeps reminding the inspector of his relationship with “Chief Constable, Colonel Roberts”. Trying to make him go easy, but the inspector doesn’t take much notice. Mr Birling was quick to pass the blame on to other people and didn’t get on well with the inspector at all.

Mr Birling’s interaction with other characters is poor, just so that he can pass the blame on to them “you’re the one I blame for this”. All he is worried about is his position in society and about the press if they hear about it “there’ll be a public scandal”. He doesn’t really want to listen to what other people have to say and he interrupts them with something about his business “look – you just keep out of this”. Sheila Birling changes from being spoilt and attention seeking to a caring person.

She was normal at the beginning, and she starts to defend Eva after the inspector’s revelations make her feel bad. She does this as she is very impressionable. She tells her family that they are all to blame for what has happened. She also feels really bad about herself “I can’t help thinking about this girl”. When the inspector comes in she asks lots of questions about what is happening, and is horrified when she finds out. After the inspector questions her she is very helpful towards him in helping everybody else to confess what they have done “Go on Mother.

You might as well admit it”. Sheila got on very well with the inspector. Sheila got on very well with Gerald and her mum Sybil. She was rude to Eric about his drinking and made little comments trying to get one over on him. She tries to get on well with Arthur but he doesn’t listen “(cutting in) just a minute, Sheila”. Arthur and Sheila change to both being very curious when the inspector comes in “what can I do for you? ” They want to know what it is all about. Also when they are not centre of attention they both get angry and do things that are not nice.

Their changes are different as Sheila becomes sympathetic towards Eva as she know what she has done is wrong “we killed her”, and she has changed to being helpful towards others as well as herself and she has “learnt something”. But Mr Birling has changed for the better of himself, being selfish and not giving any people respect or help “look at them, the famous younger generation, and they can’t even take a joke”. The effect this has on the audience is that they think they should be nicer to people rather than to be horrible, and cause such tragedies as people committing suicide.

I think Priestly is trying to say that the older generation before the wars were selfish and self-centered, but he wants people to be more sociable and friendly to one and other and become one community, like during the war where everybody had to pull together otherwise they would die. Also it is mainly the upper class being horrible to the lower class and he wants them to all be one class. In conclusion I think that the character of Arthur Birling has changed from the dinner party scene at the beginning where he was very nice, but he changed into the normal grumpy, self-centered, business orientated and pompous man he is.

He also shows us what upper class people were like, being selfish. On the other hand, Sheila Birling changed for the better, being helpful, nice and kind to the lower class citizens, because she knows what she had done with Eva Smith had been wrong. Finally I think JB Priestly clearly must have felt that it was important to convey the message of how poorly the lower class were treated by the upper class, and how he wanted them all to be equal.

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How Does Mr Birling Change Throughout The Play. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from

How Does Mr Birling Change Throughout The Play
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