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ENGLISH
Asked by Laiba

How does priestley present mr birling as an important character?

Mr Birling’s dramatic function in the play is to highlight the flaws and hypocrisy in capitalism as Priestly saw it. Focus on three main areas: ⏱💬 the dramatic irony at the start of the play. Birling makes several long speeches from the perspective of an Edwardian on the First World War, the Titantic and labour relations. A post-war audience would know his predictions are wrong. Link this point to Priestley’s views that capitalists tend to be arrogant and misguided. 💵 examine his attitude towards money, the economy and society. Why didn’t he want to give Eva Smith and her colleagues any more money? Perhaps research HG Wells and Bernard Shaw- why does Birling dismiss these writers? His rejection of socialism is key to his role in the play. ⚖️ explore Birling’s approach to social responsibility in the text. How does he react in Act Three to Gerald’s revaluation of the Inspector? Try to find moments where he appears more concerned with his public image than doing the right thing. This is crucial for Priestley- Mr Birling’s view establishes the point that capitalist are selfish and have a wholly negative influence on society. 👠🙍🏼‍♀️ looking for that extra point? Read Act 1 closely and observe his comments about women- their attitudes towards clothes and whether or not they are capable of engaging in particular discussions. Look at how he tries to protect Shiela, believing she is weak. Priestley is also interested in exposing gender inequality and Birling is one way he achieves this.

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Jane Cahill
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2.2k students helped

Initially, we are shown Birling as an important character due to the description Priestley gives him. (Important AO2 point, make your examiner aware that you understand they are Priestley’s characters and that the entire play is his construction… which leads nicely into AO3 and Priestley’s own experiences with the upper middle class - upper class.) Birling is also essentially selling his daughter to form a business alliance with the Crofts. When he states ‘your engagement to Sheila means a tremendous lot to me. She’ll make you happy, and I’m sure you’ll make her happy.’ suggests that this is all about Birling and Gerald being happy. Sheila is something of an afterthought. His attitude to his daughter is archaic and patriarchal: she is simply a convenient route to more power and wealth. Birling’s blatant disregard for the exploitation of working class and vulnerable women embodies common attitudes of the wealthy in Edwardian England. The belief that it is their ‘duty to keep labour costs down’ makes their ignorance to the hardships of the working class. Especially during Eva Smiths strike. He shows a clear lack of compassion for Eva which is a specific comment of Priestley’s socialist views on capitalist society. Priestley presents Birling as an important character as he is Priestley’s metaphorical embodiment of Capitalism, Birling is the problem with society and this is the reason why we are introduced to him first.

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Zack Cross
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739 students helped

key points to consider: As soon as the book starts, we are immediately introduced to Mr Birling and him being a capitalist business man. His only concern is for money. He is the dominant figure of the entire Birling Household. add context (AO3) to this about what a man was supposed to 'bring to the table' in the 19th century and what men were like as a whole throughout these times. he is the first "suspect" in the investigation of Eva Smith. he continuously tries to get the Inspector out of his house and interrupts every suspect whilst they talk his reputation means everything to him. After Sheila finds out about Gerald and Eva/Daisy's affair, Mr Birling still tries to get Shelia to marry him, due to Gerald coming from a higher family. It illustrates the corruption that consumes him.

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Yushra Kootbaully
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347 students helped

Priestley presents Mr Birling as a clear representation of the patriarchal upper class. Mr Birling is described as being a "heavy looking, rather portentous man", which indicates to the audience that he is wealthy. Alot of his dialogue centres around capitalist viewpoints, as he claims that it is every man's duty to "mind his own business and look after himself". Birling is one of the most stubborn characters in the play, and refuses to back down to the Inspector when it is suggested that he is to blame for Eva's death. This reflects a lack of social responsibility and justice in his character, and demonstrates Priestley's disdain for Capitalist beliefs and society. In addition, Birling is presented as being an imposing and demanding figure in the family. He has one of the highest percentages of dialogue, and often interrupts other members of the family, particularly Sheila. This emphasises his position as the patriarch, as he takes over and attempts to control everyone in his life. However, his misguided beliefs about the war and the Titanic demonstrate to the audience that he is a foolish man, with very little to say that is of much worth. This further supports Priestley's presentation of him as the physical embodiment of the upper class, Capitalist gentleman in 1912; which has started to lose its place as the public becomes more socially aware and responsible.

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Sayeda Begum
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331 students helped

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