An Inspector Calls A Grade Essay
Hey, I'm quite scared for this exam on monday, could you do me a massive favour and mark my AIC essay? All feedback would be massively appreciated!
How is Mr Birling presented over the course of the play? How does this reflect Priestley’s ideas?
At the beginning of the play, Mr Birling is introduced as a model of capitalist success, being described as a ‘prosperous’ manufacturer.Here we see that Birling must have made a lot of money. The general aim of capitalism is to make money and so Birling, with his ‘good furniture’, is presented to the audience as a representation of capitalist success. As Birling has done well out of it, the audience now imagines Birling to be a supporter of capitalism, an impression Priestly creates with his stage directions before any lines are spoken.
Once the audience has birling associated with capitalism, Priestly then uses birling to show the ignorant and short-sighted nature of the capitalist elite. Birling describes in a speech that all this talk of war and conflict is ‘fiddlesticks’. He even predicts that in 1940 his children will be having a party ‘like this’. A watching audience in 1946 or later knows that birling is dead wrong about all of this, which makes the audience see him as stupid and overconfident. He also seems pompous when he overrides his sons (correct) suggestion about the possibility of war, demanding Eric ‘let him finish’ without giving him a chance to be heard. This makes it seem like birling is close minded and will not listen to sense. This is clever from Priestly because it mirrors later in the play when birling ignores the socialist ideas of the inspector, and dismisses him as a ‘crank’. The audience has already seen how birling ignores sense, so the socialist suggestions of the inspector seem as correct as Eric’s suspicions of war.
Birling is also presented as a bad father. His first act in the play is to ‘push the port’ towards Eric. As we know later Eric has a drinking problem, Priestly may be suggesting it is partly birling’s fault that his son turned to drink, as he is literally ‘pushing’ alcohol onto him. In addition to this, Birling appears more excited about his daughter’s marriage as a business prospect than a happy life for his daughter, as he clearly relishes the idea of ‘lower costs and higher prices’. This makes him seem indifferent to the wants and needs of his daughter, and furthers the idea of him being a bad father. Since Mr. Birling is there to represent the capitalist ruling elite who hold all the power, this shows that the elite are uncaring and have no business having so much power over so many people. If Birling can’t even properly care for his two children, why should he and others like him have the power over thousands of their workers? This aids priestly negative portrayal of capitalism.
Further on in the novel, Priestley’s presents Birling as wilfully obtuse and stubborn. After admitting he threw Eva Smith out for organising a strike, Birling states he cannot ‘accept’ any responsibility. This word, ‘accept’, makes it sound as if he realises he might be responsible, but just won’t admit it. The word ‘accept’ makes it seem as if (the responsibility) is there, but birling just won’t admit to it. Priestly may be doing this to show birling unable to come to terms with the error of his ways, much like later in the play when he acts ‘amused’ when he thinks he has gotten away with his actions. Mr Birling’s refusal to admit wrongdoing is symbolic of the upper classes refusing to recognise the shortcomings of capitalism and the need for change.
However, Priestly may be trying to represent the guilt of Mr Birling. Perhaps Mr birling does feel responsible, and to ‘accept ’responsibility would be too great a burden on his soul. He does, at the end of the play, stare ‘guiltily’ like the rest of the characters. What priestly maybe suggesting is how capitalism, through its evil, does just as much damage to people like birling as people like Eva, which helps to show the audience Priestley’s message that everyone would be better off with a socialist system.
Birling is also shown to be unable to make a proper rebuff against the inspector, ‘trying’ to protest but being immediately interrupted and told not to ‘stammer and yammer’. As the inspector represents Socialism and conscience, and Birling represents capitalism, Priestly may be showing how in an argument, capitalism has no strong argument against socialism and can only weakly ‘stammer’. Birling’s ineffectuality contrasts with his earlier bombast and descriptions of himself as a ‘hardheaded businessman’. As his son Eric put it, at no point did Birling tell the inspector that it’s ‘every man for himself’.
Overall, Birling shows a very negative look at the capitalist lifestyle and the consequences it has for the self, the family, and your fellow man. Birling is a scathing criticism of capitalism by Priestly and a contrast to the good, honest values of Socialism.
I would like critique on this essay please
Arthur Birling says, ‘If we were all responsible for everything that happened to everybody we’d had anything to do with, it would be very awkward, wouldn’t it?’
How does Priestley present ideas about responsibility in An Inspector Calls? (30 marks)
Priestley cleverly uses the contrasting personalities of all of the characters in the Birling family along with the socialist Inspector who is a mouthpiece for Priestley’s view in the morality play. The inspector is seemingly the most responsible in his ideas, as we can see by the connotations of his speech as well as his judgement of the Birling family. He also offers supernatural themes to this otherwise normal play. Priestley sets the scene within the Birling household of a rich family who are very self- satisfied and somewhat ignorant sitting at the table discussing future prospects with the family.
Priestley conveys his own personal ideas about the social class system within the play through Inspector Goole, who could be seen as a mouthpiece for Priestley’s opinion in the play. In act one of the play the Inspector is introduced as someone who ‘creates at once an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness’ This suggests that the inspector is very wise and ‘purposefulness’ can imply that the Inspector knows what his duty is in terms of interrogating the Birling family and also he has a strong sense of social responsibility. Following this, when offered whisky the Inspector immediately emphasises the fact that he is ‘on duty’. This conveys to the audience that the inspector knows what his responsibility is at that point in time and whatever is a distraction is not important to him whatsoever. The Inspector is also portrayed as a moral being who realises that the Birling family’s contribution to Eva’s death was unethical and also due to a lack of social responsibility, in the sense that all of the wrongdoings to Eva also known as Daisy Renton were an equal contribution of their abuse of social authority. The Inspector says “we are members of one body.” This is biblical language that would have been preached by Jesus Christ in the bible, who knew not to do wrong, and had a very strong sense of responsibility. As well as this the Inspector clearly states later in the play that each of the Birling family ‘helped to kill her’. This shows that Priestley believed the Inspector to be the most responsible and morally enlightened character and as a result used him as a mouthpiece of his own views, because he realised that it was through the multi contribution of social abuse and the idea of social hierarchy was what lead to Eva committing suicide.
Linking in with this, Birling has a completely contrasting identity in this play in comparison with the Inspector and seems to lack social awareness, which is conveyed through the use of dramatic irony. In act one, Birling states that the Titanic is ‘absolutely unsinkable’, which of course the audience knows will already take place. Birling’s rich status is clearly a key contribution to lack of social awareness because he believes that life is as perfect as it is for his family for everyone, which is not the case whatsoever. This shows a lack of responsibility because it is evident that Birling does not know the extremes of life in terms of poverty and suffering and as a result he believes that nothing bad can come of the Titanic sailing just because it is built with a lot of money. As well as this, Birling shows a clear lack of social responsibility because he refuses to take any blame for Eva smith’s death. This takes place when he refers to Eva as a ‘wretched girl’. By calling Eva ‘wretched’ this portrays connotations of ignorance to the audience because Birling does not show any remorse even though he knows Eva has died and still makes it clear that he considers her a nuisance that deserved to be fired from his works. Birling may be a mouthpiece of some ignorant people who are at the top of society who refuse to take responsibility for the possible harm they may be causing to those lower down in the social class system such as Eva. The stage direction of ‘still angrily’ shows that instead of taking responsibility for his actions, Mr Birling is instead reacting aggressively and refusing to accept the fact that he contributed to Eva’s death in any way.
However, Priestley does portray some aspects of the Birling family in a good light with the younger generation. He paints the image of a bright future in the absence of the abusing of social class with the reformation of Sheila throughout the play. This is done through the use of the stage direction ‘miserably’ to convey Sheila’s reaction vividly to the audience. ‘Miserably’ shows to the audience that Sheila is clearly showing remorse for what how she had treated to Eva and clearly contributed to her death and is willing to take responsibility for her actions and move forward positively. Another clear connotation of Sheila thinking about others apart from the family is where she asks the question ‘So I’m really responsible?’ This is a personal question that makes it seem as if Sheila is actually asking herself this, which shows that she is pondering deeply about what she did and how she practiced the idea of social responsibility in the past. In this way Sheila could move on and amend her past mistake by focusing on not abusing her social class in the future, in this way she develops a very strong relationship with the Inspector. Priestley could be implying here that the younger audience viewing the play were supposed to act in the same way as Sheila and really take in to account social responsibility to create a better future.
In conclusion, Priestley conveys ideas about responsibility positively in the form of Sheila and the Inspector but also negatively in the form of Mr Birling, who refuses to accept any responsibility for what he has done. Priestley does this through his effective use of language and also stage directions in the play to convey a clear image to the audience on how the character is feeling and reacting to the various testing situations in the play.