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A closer look at. Mr Birling. A self-made man. The opening scene establishes Mr Birling as a powerful man- in society and in his own family. An impressive CV. So far, he has been: A magistrate Lord Mayor A prosperous employer, owner of Birling and Co And in future...

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A closer look at

A closer look at

Mr Birling


A self made man
A self-made man...

The opening scene establishes Mr Birling as a powerful man- in society and in his own family.


An impressive cv
An impressive CV...

So far, he has been:

  • A magistrate

  • Lord Mayor

  • A prosperous employer, owner of Birling and Co

    And in future...

  • He hopes for a knighthood

  • And to be related to the aristocracy through Sheila’s marriage to Gerald


Within the family
Within the family...

  • He is patriarchal: You’ve a lot to learn yet

  • He patronises his children: you youngsters...

  • His wife refers to him respectfully: ...men with important work to do...

  • But she is happy to contradict him: Now Arthur, I don’t think you ought to talk business on an occasion like this

  • He is very pleased to have Gerald as a future son-in-law: your engagement to Sheila means a tremendous lot to me ...he looks forward to a merger of the two businesses.


His values
His values

  • He speaks as a hard-headed businessman

    And he is wrong about:

  • The forthcoming war

  • The general strike

  • The Titanic

  • Peace and prosperity in the 1940s- very ironically for the play’s first audience

    The author’s purpose is to establish him as a powerful and influential man- who is nevertheless mistaken about many things.


He resists being judged
He resists being judged...

When the Inspector arrives, Mr Birling tries to patronise and intimidate him: How do you get on with our Chief Constable, Colonel Roberts....We learn that he sacked Eva Smith, a ringleader of a strike at Birling and Co, who wanted an increase of two shillings and sixpence (12 ½ pence). He shows no interest in the fate of Eva Smith after she left his factory and denies any responsibility for her. I was quite justified.


The author s purpose
The author’s purpose

  • The author intends Birling to represent people in society who are:

  • Rich

  • Selfish

  • Unwilling to change

  • Unwilling to take any responsibility for the society they live in


BIRLING

You'll apologize at once ... I'm a public man -

INSPECTOR [massively]

Public men, Mr. Birling, have responsibilities as well as privileges.

But take my word for it, you youngsters - and I've learnt in the good hard school of experience - that a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own - and -

We hear the sharp ring of a front door bell.

A friend of mine went over this new liner last week - the Titanic - she sails next week - forty-six thousand eight hundred tons - forty-six thousand eight hundred tons - New York in five days - and every luxury - and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable.


  • So what does Priestley use

  • to bring Birling to life?

  • Props (ornaments, food, drink, dress)

  • Stage directions (actions, adverbs)

  • Dialogue

  • His treatment of others

  • How others treat him

  • Contrasting characters

  • Structure of scenes etc


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