Look again at the engagement party at the beginning of the party, up to the point where the Inspector first enters. In what ways does Priestley present Mr. Birling to us here so that we are prepared for his attitudes and behaviour in the rest of the play? (Refer in detail to language and events) At the very start of the play, it has already showed that Authur Birling is in charge of everything, even the port they are drinking. “Now then, Sybil, you must take a little tonight. ” He is the head of the family.
He is a successful businessman. He is always looking forward that the two companies (belong to him and Gerald’s dad) will merge sometime in the future. “and perhaps we may look forward to the time when Crofts and Birlings are no longer competing but are working together – for lower costs and higher prices. ” He is confident that his success as he mentions that “and I speak as a hard-headed business man, who has to take risks and know what he’s about” He is also confident that strikes and labour troubles will not be a problem.
He says conflicts between workers and their bosses will come to nothing. “Don’t worry. We’ve passed the worst of it. We employers at last are coming together to see that our interests – and the interests of Capital – are properly protected. However, in 1912, there was the Lawrence textile strike. He says technological progress will continue and gives the Titanic as an example. He says it is “and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable. ” However, the audience would have known that the Titanic had sunk.
When Eric asks whether there is going to be a war. He says “And to that I say – fiddlesticks! The Germans don’t want war. ” However, the audience also knows that two years later, there was World War One. These situations show that he is overconfident and a bit stupid. The play is set at a time of great change and great conflict. Everywhere workers are demanding more pay and better conditions. However, the Birlings and Crofts are owners and managers; they are not interested in equality or change.
The world was changing, the bosses of the world needed to face up to their responsibilities. They could not just go on and on exploiting the workers. Mr. Birling thinks he can. “a man has to make his own way” He is a public figure in Brumley and is obsessed with his status in the community. “You see, I was Lord Mayor here two years ago when Royalty visited us. And I’ve always been regarded as a sound useful party man. So – well – I gather there’s a very good chance of a knighthood” Arthur Birling’s life is all about money and power.
He is trapped in a limited world where business is more important than people are and men in authority and business stick together to unite in making money. He is very traditional in his views. He always thinks of himself first and believes that is the only way to get through life. Priestley presents Mr. Birling to us in these ways before the Inspector first enters so that we are prepared for his attitudes and behaviour in the rest of the play.