“An Inspector Calls” is the story of the Birling Family, an upper middle class family in 1912 Edwardian society. The play however was first produced in 1946. Arthur Birling is a prosperous factory owner. He is well known in Brumley as was formerly mayor. He is described at the beginning of the play as a “heavy-looking, rather portentous man in his middle fifties but rather provincial in his speech. ” He is confident that there will not be a war but as we know there was one so we begin to doubt Mr Birling’s judgement. We learn that his father was knighted and that he is expecting to inherit this knighthood.
We first learn of him playing a part in the death of Eva when the inspector arrives. Mr Birling had previously employed Eva smith at his factory. He sacked Eva when she requested a pay rise. He thinks of this as unacceptable and says, “I refused of course”. This shows that Mr Birling’s first priority is to make money. He strongly believes that “a man has to make his own way” He believes that she is inferior to him because of her class. She is just a lower class working girl and he is an upper-middle class businessman. Throughout the play he makes the continuous point that because Eva is a lower class woman, she has no value as a human being.
He does not consider the harm he may cause to other people because of his attitude. He continuously denies having any part in the cause of Eva’s death because he believes that he has done the right thing for his business. When we learn that Eric had made Eva pregnant and that he stole money from his family and gave it to her all Mr Birling can think about is the way that it will make him look. He is afraid that he will lose his chance of being knighted. He says, “I’ve got to cover this up as soon as I can. ” Arthur Birling has done something to Eva, yet he cannot justify doing it.
He acted selfishly and used his “social status” and “beliefs” to fire Eva. When Gerald Croft is first introduced in the play he is described as “an attractive chap about thirty, rather too manly to be a dandy but very much the easy well-bred man-about-town. ” We learn that he is very sympathetic when we first here about him and Eva. He shows sympathy for Eva’s situation, and his willingness at the County Hotel to hear her story shows he thought of her as an individual, unlike Birling or Mrs Birling. He describes her as “young and pretty and warm-hearted – and intensely grateful”.