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Character Analysis of Mrs Birling

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Wing-Hou Chan

on 4 February 2013

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Transcript of Character Analysis of Mrs Birling

By Josh, Sam, Tom & Wing Character Analysis
Mrs Birling In more detail... Act 1 English Language-An Inspector Calls Act 2 Act 3 Description
Class Mrs Birling’s description in the stage directions defines her character. She is described as a "rather cold woman" and is "about 50" suggesting that she is a mature woman who has no emotional attachment to her family. She is image conscious and doesn’t want her reputation to be ruined. Authorial Intent Priestley conveys Mrs Birling as a character who only cares about herself and has no true emotion for anyone else, not even her family. She answers questions for her family, "Of course she does". Perhaps Priestley wanted to show that inside Mrs Birling is a very "cold" woman and does not want anyone to ruin her reputation and make her look bad. This is also evident later on when the Inspector arrives; she always tries to push the blame to someone else. Attitude Dramatic Devices It also says that Mrs Birling is her "husband’s social superior" this suggests that she was born into a rich family and has always had enough money to keep her alive and well. Throughout Act 1, Mrs Birling is forever correcting her husband’s language and behaviour. This could suggest that that Birling has worked for his money and hasn’t got the whole idea of being ‘image conscious’ as he wasn’t bought up like Mrs Birling was. "Arthur, you’re not supposed to say such things-." This is said after Mr. Birling compliments and names the ‘cook’ in front of their special guest. This could imply that although she is concerned over her reputation, she still doesn’t want to be seen as boastful as their guest, Gerald is also rich. Ignorance Mrs Birling's ignorance is displayed on p32, in reference to Eric's drink problem:
"It isn't true." And again, on p35, in reference to the notorious behaviour of Alderman Joe Meggarty, even when it seems to be common knowledge: MRS B. (staggered) Well, really! Alderman Meggarty! I must say, we are learning something tonight! SHEILA (coolly) Of course we are. But everybody knows about that horrible old Meggarty. A girl I knew had to see him at the Town Hall one afternoon and she only escaped with a torn blouse- MRS B. (sharply, shocked) Sheila! And again, on p36, in reference to the Inspector asking Gerald if he kept Eva/ Daisy as his mistress: INSPECTOR And then you decided to keep her - as your mistress? MRS B. What? SHEILA Of course, Mother. It was obvious from the start. Go on, Gerald. Don't mind mother. Furthermore, when the Inspector shows a picture of Eva Smith to Mrs Birling, she claims she doesn't recognise it even when she does and dismisses any connection between Eva's suicide and her actions with Eva. Authorial Intent Responsibility Mrs Birling does not feel responsible for Eva Smith's suicide It is Mrs Birling's injured pride and offended sensibilities, through the 'impertinent' misuse of the Birling name by the now pregnant Eva, that provokes her vindictive decision to persuade, using her influence, the other members of her 'charitable' group to refuse Eva assistance. It is this that causes her to be responsible in part for the fate of Eva Smith, yet she puts the blame on the shoulders of Eva when Eric, herself and the other members of the family would be the more accurate targets. Her hypocrisy in this situation is shown in the way that she accepts no responsibility herself, but is fully able to consider herself in a position to put this responsibility on the shoulders of the father of Eva's baby. Priestley presents Mrs Birling as ignorant of the situation to convey the typical upper class attitude, not just to a scandalous event such as this, but their attitude to events in general. Mrs Birling may be considered to be ignoring the truth as she feels it is necessary to keep up the image of upper class society and the appearance of respectability. In fact it is through Mrs Birling's attempts at keeping up the image of upper class society, these microcosmic events encapsulates the attitude of most upper class citizens, making the intentions of Priestley in making the audience disgusted by such attitude. Authorial Intent Through Mrs Birling's attitude of her responsibility in Eva Smith's death, Priestley further expresses the laissez faire attitude of the upper class. Her selfishness disgusts the audience making them more inclined to the socialist ideals. Mrs Birling is portrayed in Act 3 as a stereotypical upper class woman of the time. This fits in with the lessons that J B Priestley is trying to teach society about the social gaps between classes. For example she is often found talking down to her children this conveys a meaning of class independence. “To behave sensibly, Sheila which is more than your doing.” The way in which she talks down to and vehemently tries to diminish any lower class behaviour from her children. The author also uses the patriarchal system to make Mrs Birling seem like the high class emotion-lacking woman that Priestley perceives all upper-class women to be. Dramatic Irony Priestley uses dramatic irony at the end of Act 2. When asked who should have the blame for the Eva's suicide, Mrs Birling answers that the drunken young idler should be entirely responsible and should be dealt with very severely. As Mrs Birling goes on to how this drunken young idler should severely punished the audience releases it is Eric who is the drunken young idler. Changes in Mrs Birling What does Mrs Birling represent?
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