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    The Birling Family Essay Paper (1345 words)

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    The play an inspector calls was first performed in 1946, set in 1912 (Edwardian era), in the midlands. The play is initially a battle ground of socialist and capitalist systems, cleverly implemented into the typical society with the lives of the Birling family. Through reading the play and studying its content, one can easily understand Priestley’s socialist discontentment, in the structure of society. Throughout the play, we can see the message that is being put across to the audience.

    Priestley expresses his views, through the characters, dramatic devices exploring themes of responsibility and morality; areas in which he believes are corrupt. The characters are virtually an embodiment of his ideas; he shows corruption through the mockery of society, how capitalist beliefs are destroying society and how socialist views will help society prosper. Through this, he shows the true condition of what lays behind the cloud which we think is full of happiness and richness yet there is an unprincipled, decadent society where there is no love between them.

    A technique of communication was the use of dramatic devices. Priestly uses alcohol to convey his message in the play. Although this may sound absurd, but I feel it is quite intelligent in how he communicates his message. In order for us to see alcohols pre-eminent role in the play we first have to understand the importance of alcohol in English culture itself, this allows us to understand the consumption in the play, and how the author uses this as a device to open to many themes.

    We know that people have been drinking for a long time in our history, and it is a general custom used for a variety of purposes, celebrations, relaxation and just being social. This custom is also used in Inspector calls; Priestley creates an ordinary 1912 middle class image. I think there is also a purpose behind the use of alcohol itself and the whole general scene in the play, because it is something customary and ordinary to society, therefore communicating through this makes the audience familiar with his general point.

    The audience see the story through wine; we shall now look at some of the characters in the play. You will begin to understand how he has embodied characters and link alcohol to their actions. Perhaps the main character in the play, where his capitalist dogmas are challenged most by Inspector Goole is Arthur Birling. The character is a factory entrepreneur who Priestley has positioned as a capitalist in the play, a self-centred, portentous man head of the Birling house-hold. Straight in to the play, Birling asks Edna for the port, he says it is exact same port Gerald’s father gets.

    Although Mr Birling is high in social status, he is inferior to the croft family. We learn from, the fact port being a classy wine, that Arthur is a social climber; he is concerned about his status. From reading the play, we know the story of Eva smith and how Mr Birling can be held responsible for carving the path of her death. Through his self-centred, character, no pitty for his fellow workers and actions we can infer that he does not take notice of principles or value to achieve his status. ‘Every man is for himself’.

    Birling is a strict believer on a man being for himself and that everyone should find their own way in the world. From the start of the play, Priestley with the use of alcohol has already informed the audience of capitalist character, there selfish views and how their lack of morality affects the innocent. To make Priestley’s view stronger, he also uses irony, ‘we’ve just been modestly celebrating my daughter’s engagement’. Birling offers the inspector a drink, but he refuses, this also shows us how they turn to alcohol, not facing up to responsibilities, whilst kidding themselves.

    Birling offers him whisky which is inferior, this shows us how the family think of lower class, their views and character towards them, and obviously Priestley is protesting to that. By alcohol as a dramatic device we can see how Birling seems to get along and think in a similar way with Gerald. (Stage direction pg 8) They share a drink quite frequently and Birling seems to have him in control; it also shows us he has succeeded in his status mission, as he has now got Lord and lady Croft on his side. It is obvious that Arthur is concerned about his status, perhaps even worried.

    Priestley expresses this through the status in wine, as different wine associates to different classes, as well as other techniques. Socialists are showing what really is behind this so called ‘humble surface’. Another example of his self-importance was during the interrogation, analysing his psychological state, we see that Mr Birling is in the spotlight of guilt, where his true thoughtless character is under interrogation, he then referred to his status in hope of frightening his opponent who infact has done nothing wrong. We see that he is using status to bend the rules.

    ‘I was an alderman for years’. Yet again proving my point of how his status was more of a vital success than the abiding law. His arrogance is to such a level, where even the law seems to have no authority over him. So in summary of studying Mr Birling, the dramatic device Priestley has used has developed our knowledge to character, morality and responsibility. He shows the capitalists are corruption in society as there is no respect for moral values. Already from analysing one character we can see how alcohol has enabled us to the issue of class in Edwardian society and the theme of responsibility.

    Eric is perhaps the most corrupted character in the play; this is where the most shallow morality can be found. Throughout the story, we see problems with Eric’s actions. First of all it is clear that he has drinking issue, this affects his actions later on. The deeper in immorality he goes the more he becomes dependant on alcohol as he lacks moral courage. He consumes alcohol for courage. ‘He needs a drink now just to see him through’. Eric’s drinking problem was perhaps the platform on how we get to explore his actions in morality and responsibility.

    This is also shows the effect of the dramatic device because through alcohol we begin see these issues. Again Priestley has addressed responsibility here and tells us how society is becoming more and more deep in corruption and the fact that another family member had said this, verifies my point more, it tells us that, the people around are aware of the hypocrisy but they still seem to kid themselves. Each individual should feel some guilt; yet most do not; therefore society is living in this hypocrisy.

    Eric also seems to visit the palace bar where prostitutes meet, again Priestley creates a familiar link with alcohol, a habitual scene as alcohol and palace bar go together. Where there is lots of alcohol, Priestley will look at many themes of immorality, therefore he is using alcohol as a dramatic device to covey his message. They don’t realise how alcohol has become such an important role in their lives, it almost controls and seems to have an effect on all of their actions. The more dependant they become the more they’d do to get hold of it, this leads them to become immoral and irresponsible.

    Using alcohol Priestley allows the audience to see the various themes. The palace bar is not ‘exactly high class’; by being in these environments and committing immoral acts, he goes on to virtually rape Eva smith. This shows us the decadent behaviour, despite being the son of a high status man; this is what he goes on to do. Alcohol plays such an important role in their lives, but they don’t see it, they fail to realise how dependant they are on alcohol and how they do not face up to responsibilities. We also see that alcohol was a source of courage for Eric, as he stands up to his father.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    The Birling Family Essay Paper (1345 words). (2017, Nov 23). Retrieved from

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