Arthur Birling: a character analysis

Today, we’re looking at the character of Arthur Birling in An Inspector Calls.

First, listen to this short broadcast about Arthur Birling.

You can access a list of quotes about Mr Birling, the presentation and the mindmap here.

First, gather your evidence. Don’t make any decisions before you do so. Get all your quotes.

Then sift through them. Sort them. Use font sizes to make the most important ones stand out. Get down to ten quotes that really summarise his character. You can see my top ten quotes on the presentation. Think of it like this:

A C grade candidate learns what the top ten quotes are because the teacher shows them

A B grade candidate picks out all the quotes and then has a problem narrowing it down

An A grade candidate can sift through and weigh up the best quotes

An A* candidate instinctively knows which are the best. They just ARE! And they can explain it, too.

When you’ve gathered all your evidence and evaluated it, then start working out what it means. What does it tell us about Birling?

You don’t just have to think about Birling, but what he stands for, how Priestley wanted us to react and our own reactions. Priestley was a socialist. He believed in society. He’s the opposite of Birling. In many ways, the Inspector is Priestley’s views. But some people might think Birling is right: he isn’t to blame.

Think about your own views:

Is Birling right – Eva got another job, she was stirring up trouble, he was paying the going rate and if she wanted more, it’s a free world and she could have gone to look for more?


Is he wrong: community ISN’T a load of nonsense, and just because all the wages are low, doesn’t make it right? No man has a right to make money at others’ expense? Is the point of society to make money however and wherever you can? 

You need to think about these views. Do you blame Birling or do you think he’s right?

Next time, we’ll be looking at how to write an essay about Birling in preparation for the exam. Before then, sift through the play and find your top ten quotes. Then make sure you’ve got fifty words to describe him. Use a thesaurus if you need to. This will help you ensure you have plenty to say in the exam.


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