Towards the end of Act 2 a great deal of irony is shown. Mrs Birling is being interrogated about her “responsibilities” and the charity work she is doing. She uses her power to persuade the other people on the committee saying because she has a high social class and women will be afraid to go against her. I think that Priestly was trying to get people to consider the consequences of everyone else as well as your own well being.
Mrs Birling starts to realise that she could be in trouble for the work she is using to help her social standards, she is not facing up too her responsibilities, she’s not ignoring them. So she passes on the blame, “it’s the father that should be made an example”. She starts on the father of the child by basically saying the father should be aware of his responsibilities, the opposite to what Mrs Birling is doing but she doesn’t realise that its Eric that’s the father. She hasn’t got a clue. This made me realise how slow minded Mrs Birling really is because every one else knows that its Eric, even Sheila knows and is warning her to stop but Mrs Birling and her intransigent mind just wont listen, she always has to be right.
Mr Birling is very like Mrs Birling. He only married her to improve his social standards. Mr Birling is like the Titanic, supposedly “unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable”. I think that this basically sums up that he’s the epitome of Edwardian society, but the frightening thing is that we as a human race haven’t really learnt anything in 40years. Mr Birling was going on about how modern technology was so good, because of it; he has been brutally attacked, and sunk.
This was the telephone, the telephone that destroyed him and his chances for his precious knighthood. We are still ignorant towards “war” and that we seem to be “dodging” it. Priestly’s words, “unsinkable” frightened me because the words echoed and maybe the Americans thought that they were unsinkable? They were sunk with fire on September 11th. They still haven’t learnt. It’s exactly what the inspector said, “we will be taught in fire, blood and anguish.” As H.G. Wells said “The future is a race between education and catastrophe.”
At the beginning of this play, Priestly is very precise about the settings and background. I think that he has thought hard about the furniture in the Birling’s house. The furniture is elegant and expensive but not comfortable, it personifies Mr Birling and his family: they’re wealthy but there’s no love, they’re really comfortable with each other. Mr Birling thinks that he’s as good as he gets, “knighthood” in the near future, ex-mayor, but what Priestly’s trying to say is do you really want him to go to the house of lords? He would be allowed to change people’s opinions democratically but he doesn’t like people in a lower class, “… the way some cranks talk and write now, you’d think that everyone has to look out for everyone else” p10. Mr Birling’s like Napoleon from animal farm, he’s the paradox to an altruist.
Priestly also sets the lighting at the beginning of the play, as “rosy”, rosy being a safe colour therefor the room was safe. Its like Mr Birling wearing light, rose tinted spectacles. He only sees good for himself when he’s wearing them but then he asks Edna to give us some more light, to change the light to a harsher colour. The protection has been lost from the room. The room is no longer safe and Mr Birling has bought that upon himself.
I would end this play on a with Mr Birling standing next to a rosy light near the telephone because even at the end of all of this he still doesn’t know any different, he doesn’t know what he’s done wrong. As they say, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. He still thinks that everything will be all right and life will continue the same- he’s afraid of change, and this is what the rosy light symbolises. I would separate Mrs Birling and Mr Birling from the others but still have Mrs Birling away from Mr Birling; I would do this because Mr and Mrs Birling haven’t learnt or realised that they need to think about the consequences before they abuse their power to do something.
Sheila and Eric would be together maybe hugging each other as they have learnt what they have done is wrong unlike Mr and Mrs Birling who think that they were justified. These two younger people are the people of the future, because of this learning flaw they have come to they will change for the good and teach their children to do things for the better and always think of the consequences. They will never make the same mistake because of Eva Smith’s death and the guilt on their conscious. These two would be nearer a harsher light because of the reason I just stated that they’ve change for the good and have realised the harsher side of life, they can’t just cover up what’s wrong.
I would still have the inspector “closing his note book” at the end as if to say, “my work here is done.” This gives me the thought that after he goes he’s going on to another persons home just like the Birling’s to teach the kids of the future the same lesson and to make them realise that not everything in life is bought to them on a plate. My ending would finish with Mrs Birling turning away from Mr Birling as he hears the news about the girl in the infirmary because this would show that even she is ashamed of him.