Explain the ways Arthur Birling is presented in the drama text.

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kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Mr. Birling is presented as an arrogant and thoughtless man, ignorant of the social climate in which he exists. The audience is first skeptical of his judgement when he gives the speech regarding the impossibility of war and the success of the unsinkable Titanic. He is revealed as a selfish man, blinkered to the lives of those outside his social circle. When he tries to explain how he dealt with the staff who appealed for higher wages-

 It’s my duty to keep labour costs down

He can see only the fiscal responsibility of his position, not the social one.

When the Inspector arrives, he attempts to illustrate that the life of Eva Smith is as vital and important as those in the Birling circle. Mr Birling is angered when Sheila is upset by the girl’s photograph-

We were having a nice little family celebration tonight. And a nasty mess you’ve made of it now, haven’t you?

The inspector uses Birlings words in the context of Eva Smith to try to impart some understanding or empathy-

That’s more or less what I was thinking earlier tonight, when I was in the Infirmary looking at what was left of Eva Smith. A nice little promising life there, I thought, and a nasty mess somebody’s made of it.

Birling is unable to respond to this comment.

Mr Birling is concerned only with maintaining the image of respectability. He is not too concerned with the actions of his family, or their links to the dead girl, as long as there is no scandal. He is triumphant when the Inspector’s credibility is questioned at the end and he sees the evening as a joke, not a learning experience-

 You’ll all have a good laugh over it yet.

Sources:

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