Mr Birling however is unlike his daughter and is a narrow minded man who has not a care in the world for anyone else but himself and his business. He proves this on many occasions in the play but a lot of the time he just makes extremely subtle remarks which tend to belittle anyone in a lower class or to knock down his children Eric and Shelia. He represents a stereotypical 1900’s man who was still under the impression that women should still just be at home washing up and doing the house work, and would never cope with any kind of cultural change.
One of the first reasons we have to think some of the previous is when he is first talking to the Inspector about him sacking Eva Smith. Mr Birling says that he sacked her because she asked for a pay rise from 22 shillings to 25 shillings a week, but he sacked her immediately even though she was one of the companies best workers. He said that he sacked her without any thought because he wanted to keep labour costs down which is very incompetent of him considering that he could have just denied her the pay rise rather that proving his power by sacking her. This proves that he values his business above people in a lower class than him. He also does not ever think about the consequence of his actions, just what he wants, and worse he doesn’t have to think about the consequence of his actions because he is such a powerful man. This represents a massive injustice in the play.
Another example of Mr Birling’s arrogance and narrow mind is when he is making a long speech to Sheila, Gerald and Eric, towards the beginning of the play. He first says “the Titanic is unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable” he then says “Rubbish, there will be know world war. In 1940 we will all be living in peace and prosperity”. Just in that speech he makes 2 hugely false statements as we now know that the Titanic sank on its first voyage and in 1940 we were in the middle of the biggest war the world would ever see. However his ignorance is almost amusing as both Gerald and Shelia try to argue the two points he made but Mr Birling just talks over them and shouts them down when they actually prove him wrong in a situation.
This evidence clearly proves Mr Birling as a pompous, arrogant old man. He is presented to have the stereotypical arrogance of the upper class and is an exaggerated figure of the 1900’s upper class man. Eric appears to be the ‘odd one out’ or ‘the runt of the litter’ in An Inspector Calls. He is always depicted doing something childish or making an immature comment and is soon put in his place by his over whelming father. This is because Mr Birling is not proud of Eric as his wild cat personality doesn’t look good from a business or a family reputation prospect.
The first impression we get to think this is when Eric finally has to admit that he has been out drinking a lot. Shelia finally says “I won’t defend you anymore Eric. Go on tell them.” He is then forced to explain that he has been drinking and then finds himself explaining that he got Eva Smith pregnant. He is then interrogated further until all of the truth comes out that he stole money from his father to pay for the baby. Everyone is very disappointed in Eric but not surprised which gives us the feeling that he is a bit wild, and can’t control himself, as the Birlings act as if he has been pulling stunts like this his entire life. These acts of Eric’s, all have an involvement with people in the lower class e.g.; getting Eva Smith pregnant, out drinking etc. This is why his family are so disappointed with him, as they see it as extremely wrong to be socialising with people inferior to them. This shows a huge amount of injustice.
This play has many good aspects to it from an audience prospective of how funny and entertaining it was and from a reviewer’s point of view of how it symbolized the social defects in 1912. But can we get both of these things (entertainment and morals) at the same time? I think we can get both things at the same time. This is because the play has a great plot and is very entertaining whoever you are, but even if you don’t break down the points in the play and assess the moral values, you are still left with an impression that the Inspector wasn’t actually that bad after all and he did the Birlings more good than bad. You are also left with a thriller aspect of “who did it”. This means that the effectiveness of the play is absolutely brilliant because you don’t even realise the morals you are picking up from the play as they are hidden between the lines. Therefore the play can be both didactic and entertaining and the main way he achieved this is by Priestley’s use of dramatic devices.