Introduction: for this coursework assignment I will be looking at the role of my chosen character, Arthur Birling. The classification of role to me is what a character brings to a play or book, how he or she affects the play or book, and a socially expected behaviour pattern determined by an individual’s status in a particular society. Arthur Birling plays a significant role in the play ‘An inspector calls’. He does this by trying to be a confident and outspoken man. His arrogance is portrayed in every part of his personality. During his conversation with Gerald he clearly shows his feelings towards his future son-in-laws mother and proves what a ‘pompous man’ Arthur Birling can be.Order now
Although clearly happy at his daughter’s engagement to Gerald, he states that he knows Lady Croft feels that Gerald might have done better socially, indicating that her son could have married into a better family. He then goes on to criticise openly about Lady Croft’s background. This indicates his character as being brutally honest and up-front, showing an uncaring attitude towards people. Arthur Birling’s pomposity and self-centred arrogance is again shown when he brags on about his up and coming knighthood and his connections with ‘Royalty’, expressing that he was ‘Lord Mayor’ for the area he lived in and he and his family are ‘well behaved’ which should get him this knighthood (which he feels he rightfully deserves!).
Further into the play Birling again expresses his awareness with the area and with the people living in it. His conversation with the Inspector starts off with ‘you’re new, aren’t you?’ clearly indicating that Birling knows everyone in the police. Birling’s starts to brag when he says ‘I was an alderman for years – and Lord Mayor two years ago’ and that he is ‘still on the bench’ this lets the inspector know that he knows people in ‘high places’ and he is a law abiding citizen.
In the play, Arthur Birling is also portrayed as a character that seems ‘to think’ he knows it all, especially when he is talking to the people that are younger than him, hence his sons, Eric and Gerald – his future son-in-law. He pushes his age; his experiences and his opinion at every chance he gets which is evident again in Act one. His discussion on the ‘up coming war’ prompted by Eric leads to Birling’s stating ‘You’ve a lot to learn yet’ aimed specifically at his son and ‘as a hard-headed, practical man of business…that there isn’t a chance of war’ showing that as a business man he is more in the know than any other person. Birling always praise’s himself, at every opportunity he can, for the work he did before he became successful, stressing to the ‘youngsters (Eric and Gerald)’ how much experience he has. He also sees himself as a ‘hard-headed, practical man of business’ and finds everything a ‘business venture or opportunity’
Arthur Birling’s portrays himself as ‘living comfortably’. Being a prosperous manufacturer he has sufficient wealth. In Act one, the scene suggests a cosy and comfortable atmosphere with a sense of excitement for the family, his daughter’s engagement to a wealthy, well-bred young man. The intimate family gathering is celebrated with champagne; Port served in a decanter (maybe crystal) and cigars for the men of the household kept in a cigar box. The setting is clearly shown when his wife and children leave Arthur and Gerald alone. The offering of a ‘Cigar’ to Gerald who politely declines the offer, which leads Arthur to state ‘you don’t know what you’re missing’, indicates that a good cigar is smoked after a meal by a prosperous businessman. In turn, Arthur’s character constantly pushes his experience into the faces of people younger than him.
The character portrayed as Arthur Birling in the play is that of an extremely overbearing and somewhat bossy person. This is evident through his relationships with his wife, daughter and son and to some extent with Gerald and the Inspector. He sees himself as the provider; a man with far more experience than everyone else put together in the household and always patting himself on the back for being a ‘hard-headed business man!’ During his discussion with Eric and Gerald on the issue about women and clothing, Arthur quickly brings the whole situation to himself. He states that ‘you don’t know what boys get up to these days’ aiming clearly at the two young men sitting beside him. ‘They have more money to spend and time to spare than I had when I was Eric’s age’.