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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Arthur Birling-Character Analysis | An Inspector Calls

J.B. Priestley’s “An Inspector Calls” is an interesting social play which presents the theme of social responsibility. Realism is the keynote of modern drama. The drama “An Inspector Calls” unfolds the circumstances responsible to the suicide of the poor and destitute working-class girl, Eva Smith. It also exposes artificiality and hypocrisy behind which members of the so called rich and sophisticated class hide their irresponsible acts. 

Such person, like Arthur Birling least bothers about their social responsibility and care less about the welfare of other people and more about their monetary income and profit. He can be deemed as a representative of the capitalist class of society.

Arthur Birling-Character Analysis
Arthur Birling-Character Analysis


Role of Arthur Birling in "An Inspector Calls"

J.B. Priestley has presented Mr. Arthur Birling as a middle-aged person who has very high estimation of himself. Though not born rich, he has become a wealthy industrialist by hard work. He has passed through adverse and difficult phases of life. He has become a leading industrialist. He lives a comfortable and luxurious life in Brumley. But he has forgotten the old days. He regards himself superior to others. He looks down upon the poor and destitute. Being a cunning and selfish businessman, he wants to maintain contacts with only those people who can prove of some advantage to him. 

Mr. Arthur Birling has developed logic of his own that a man has ‘to make his own way, has to look after himself.’ He says, “I have learnt in the good hard school of experience that a man has to mind his own business.” He is happy over the engagement of his daughter with Gerald Croft whose father is Arthur Birling’s rival in business. Arthur Birling strongly believes that such rivalry in business will be over after the engagement of his daughter. 

Mr. Birling thinks of working together with Mr. Croft. Naturally, he regards the engagement as a boon. He says to Gerald that he desires work with Mr. Croft for ‘lower cost and higher profit’. Mr. Arthur Birling is always aware of preserving his own interest. He wants to be more and more rich and popular. 

Arthur Birling has maintained contacts with persons holding power and position in society. He is proud of his acquaintance with high-class officers. He has worked as a Lord Mayor of the city. He goes on impressing others and using his social contacts. Arthur Birling is also ambitious for he cherishes a dream of seeing his name in the list of Honours. He is expecting Knighthood. He makes a show of his greatness, power and position in society. In the world of such ambitious and selfish persons like Mr. Birling there is no room for a common man. 

Sense of superiority is one of the dominant aspects of Mr. Arthur Birling’s personality. He behaves in such a way as if the people come to him for help and advice. He is an egoist and self-centred person. He tries to preserve artificial dignity and sense of superiority throughout the play. He talks about the war, he predicts about the changes in economic policies but the reality is unknown to him. 

Arthur Birling is an impostor and so he goes on pretending what he is not. He tries to avoid public scandal so that he would see his name in the list of Honours. He is also corrupt because he tries to bribe Inspector Goole in order to get rid of the matter of suicide of Eva Smith who was working in his firm. He is careful about his social status and his reputation but he is not ready to realise the importance of the life other people. 

Arthur Birling does not believe in community. He does not want to share social responsibility. He looks somewhat shattered and shocked when all his pretensions are shattered to pieces by Inspector Goole. But when the pressure is off, he behaves in his old ways. He also expects his family members to follow his path. 

Thus, J.B. Priestley has presented Arthur Birling as a hard-headed, self-centred and practical businessman who thinks of his own interest in “An Inspector Calls”. He is one of those social climbers who prosper at the cost of others. Such person lives in the world of their own and they do not care for others. Life is a business of profit and loss for them. Arthur Birling is a representative of materialism and capitalism who does not like the socialistic point of view of Inspector Goole.    

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