Arthur Birling

Alysia Bradley
Mind Map by Alysia Bradley, updated more than 1 year ago More Less
Rattan Bhorjee
Created by Rattan Bhorjee almost 5 years ago
Alysia Bradley
Copied by Alysia Bradley almost 5 years ago


GCSE English (An Inspector Calls) Mind Map on Arthur Birling, created by Alysia Bradley on 03/26/2015.

Resource summary

Arthur Birling
1 Inspectors Interrogation & Eva Smith
1.1 He wants to protect Birling and Co. He cannot see that he did anything wrong when he fired Eva Smith - he was just looking after his business interests.
1.2 He tries to get rid of the Inspector so he can enjoy his evening and tries to intimidate the Inspector using his social position with his talk of Knighthoods and "Chief Constable...". The Inspector ignores this.
1.2.1 When the Inspector persist with questions Birling shows his belief that he is above any questioning "I don't like that tone."
1.3 HOW HE IS PORTRAYED & EVA: Doesn't show compassion for Eva Smith, simply describing her as a "wretched girl". He is proud that he sacked a girl with "too much to say" and later adds she "got herself into trouble".
1.3.1 He doesn't see him firing her to do with his greed for profit or that his actions eventually left her penniless, he simply tries to justify his belief by saying "lower costs and higher prices." Birling is portrayed as a typical capitalist and Priestly wished to influence people like Birling. Inspector say she is "offering money at the wrong time" for he isn't totally to blame but he "started it". Showing we are all responsible for each other.
1.4 HIS VIEWS/INTERESTS: Throughout the play he seems only interested in covering up the scandal and is one of the first to grasp at the idea that the Inspector is a "fake". He is delighted when this revelation surfaces and jokes at Sheila that she'll "have a good laugh".
1.4.1 He wants to protect his reputation. As the Inspector's investigations continue, his selfishness gets the better of him: he is worried about how the press will view the story in Act II, and accuses Sheila of disloyalty at the start of Act III. waHe nts to hide the fact that Eric stole money: "I've got to cover this up as soon as I can."
1.5 He, like his wife, doesn't learn anything from the Inspector's visit, and ultimately pays the price for his ignorance when the real Inspector is announced to be coming.
1.6 HOW HE TREATS THE INSPECTOR: Birling is dismissive of the Inspector and says that the Inspector's visit must be "something about a warrant" in his arrogant belief that it couldn't be anything to do with him personally.
1.7 His view changes very little and only really differs after the interview when he says "Look Inspector - I'd give thousands." However, he is still thinking in terms of money and the Inspector states "offering money at the wrong time."
1.8 Portrayed to be a neglectful and unapproachable father who would rather use his position of power to prevent scandal than show sympathy for his son. This contradicts Birling's view that you should only look after yourself and your family.
1.8.1 More bothered about money and the trouble Eric causes than his feelings.
1.8.2 He represents a greedy, ambitious business man who builds his fortunes at the expense of everyone else. He does not care about the need of others and Priestly shows he believes Birling should be punished for this.
1.9 Birling is given the chance to change and take responsibility but chooses not to and this is his downfall as at the end he gets a call and thus has to face real consequences.
2 Appearance & Personality
2.1 He is described at the start as a "heavy-looking, rather portentous man in his middle fifties but rather provincial in his speech." Suggesting he is more middle class than upper.
2.2 He has worked his way up in the world and is proud of his achievements. He boasts about having been Mayor and tries (and fails) to impress the Inspector with his local standing and his influential friends.
2.3 He claims the party "is one of the happiest nights of my life." This is not only because Sheila will be happy, but because a merger with Crofts Limited will be good for his business.
2.4 Arrogant and self-important as he constantly parades his social standing and capitalist, highly Conservative views.
2.4.1 "...a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own."
2.5 He is selfish in the sense that he is only bothered about impressing Gerald who is of a higher class. He keeps his expensive, mahogany table uncovered and buys the same port Gerald's father does. Birling seems more bothered about the fact that Gerald is of higher class and how this will help his company than his actual daughters happiness. This is especially shown when he tells Sheila not to be "too hasty" about calling off the engagement.
2.5.1 Wants to join with Croft LTD "for lower costs and higher prices"
2.6 It is a weakness in his character that he is so self involved and Priestly exploits this weakness during the Inspectors investigation as Birling's only concern is that his reputation and future social advancement will be affected and that a "scandal" may interfere with his chance of a knighthood.
2.7 We see the horror in the painful suicide of Eva where as he doesn't care and his lack of social responsibility he represents causes us to dislike him.
3 Social Standing Within...
3.1 The Family
3.1.1 Treats Eric and Sheila like small children saying "it's nothing to do with you Sheila" while showing no concern for Eva Smith.
3.1.2 He later becomes abusive at Eric when he discovers he stole "fifty pounds" and is only concerned about the scandal that Eric is "mixed up in".
3.1.3 He blames Eric more than any other character: "you're the one I blame for this", showing he has no sense of guilt.
3.2 Wider Society
3.2.1 Mr Birling is a man who believes money and status is the way to judge people, he himself has already climbed the social ladder by marrying Sybil, his 'Social superior'.
3.2.2 He is aware of people who are his social superiors, which is why he shows off about the port to Gerald, "it's exactly the same port your father gets." He is proud that he is likely to be knighted, as that would move him even higher in social circles.
4 Priestley's use of Mr Birling
4.1 He is optimistic for the future and confident that there will not be a war. He believes his success entitles him to comment on affairs which he has little knowledge. As the audience knows there will be a war, we begin to doubt Mr Birling's judgement (If he is wrong about the war, what else will he be wrong about?).
4.1.1 Dramatic irony: the play is set in 1912, 2 years before WW1 & because Birling is shown to be wrong the audience is less inclined to agree with his personal and social responsibility.
4.2 Priestley uses Mr Birling to embody the stereotypical capitalist views of a middle aged, middle class man of the era. He wants to protect himself and his family. He also believes that socialist ideas that stress the importance of the community are "nonsense" and that "a man has to make his own way."
4.3 At the end of the play, he knows he has lost the chance of his knighthood, his reputation in Brumley and the chance of Birling and Co. merging with their rivals. Yet he hasn't learnt the lesson of the play: he is unable to admit his responsibility for his part in Eva's death.
4.4 Priestley cleverly links the play with the seven deadly sins. As the majority of his audience was Christian at the time and the seven deadly sins were part of Christian teachings, they would find it easy to relate to the seven deadly sins. Each character is linked with one of the sins. Mr Birling’s sin is greed; he wouldn’t pay his workers fair wages. The strong correlation towards the seven deadly sins clearly helps the Christian audience at the time to understand that each of the characters did things that could happen in everyday life and that these things are wrong.
4.5 During the play Mr Birling and Mrs Birling represent the older generation in the audience who are reluctant to change their attitudes. For instance, after the Inspector has left, Mr Birling is more concerned about “a public scandal”, than Eva Smith.
4.6 Priestley shows him to be an fool/idiot and that he has no real understanding of the world through his claims of "the Germans don't want war" and the "unsinkable" Titanic.
4.7 Birling's attitude symbolises what happens when we don't recognise Priestly's message that we have a responsibility towards society as well as ourselves.
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