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A contrast essay on the character of Mr Birling and the inspector in An inspector's call
Priestley has characterized Mr Birling and the Inspector really differently. Physically they are similar the Inspector has an “impression of massiveness” and Mr Birling is a “heavy-looking” man. Mr.Birling is nonetheless called “heavy-looking” almost like a burden to society as he is described as “heavy”. Playwrights like Priestley have been typically identified to craft the characters audiences have been meant to dislike as grotesque Mr.Birling’s description as “heavy-looking” does just that by creating Mr.Birling look like a burden. Furthermore, Mr.Birling is a “portentous” man which is in contrast to the inspector’s “impression of massiveness”. Due to Mrs.Birling being the “social superior” of Mr.Birling, he feels “portentous” and consistently desires to impress. Mr.Birling’s constant need to impress is undermined by the Inspector’s attitude of “looking hard” at and holding power by way of dialogue like “there might be”. His simple quick sentences show the Inspector’s control of the circumstance and Mr.Birling’s lack of it. The ambiguity of ‘might’ shows that he can control the quantity of details, with out feeling the need to have to please the Birlings. In addition, “looking difficult at the person” suggests he will appear closely at factors and we discover via the play that he sees by means of the pictures of becoming a “hard-headed sensible man of business” that Mr.Birling tries to put on. He refers to himself in this way twice which shows how strongly he believes it. This shows how he believes it is a good issue, but ‘hard’ also tends to make us think he’s difficult-hearted. He is also not a ‘practical’ man in the genuine world in terms of social morals, and his pretence of being “practical” is disproved when he is speaking about “lower costs” on the evening of his daughter’s engagement, using her as an asset or bargaining chip that can be bartered via marriage. Priestley highlights this distinction by way of timing in this play, as seen when Mr.Birling’s capitalist speech is interrupted by a “sharp ring” of the doorbell due to the entry of the Inspector. This tends to make the audience query why the Inspector’s entrance is so “sharp” and the audience is made to recognize that the Inspector will be exposing Mr.Birling’s false pretences of becoming a “practical” man.
The Inspector is Priestley’s mouthpiece in terms of political views Mr.Birling is the antithesis of Priestley’s philosophy. Mr.Birling has capitalist beliefs and says “a man has to make his own way”. Mr.Birling is individualistic and thinks of himself as a self-made man who has “made his own way” into the socially superior class by merely marrying Sybil. This in fact tends to make his struggle to “make his own way” look like no struggle at all and the audience does not sympathise with his attempt to evoke respect for him generating “his personal way”. In addition, he refers to a singular ‘man’, not ‘men’ which highlights that it’s down to the person to take care of themselves. Priestley goes against this views by creating a fool out of Mr.Birling through dramatic techniques like dramatic irony. When he calls the Titanic “absolutely unsinkable”, the audience of 1942 already know about how the Titanic sunk, creating them unsympathetic and against Mr.Birling’s views. He is created to seem even much more foolish by his self-confidence when he calls it “absolutely” unsinkable and is so sure of his predictions. On the other hand, the Inspector’s beliefs are a reflection of Priestley’s socialist views of society. The Inspector says “we’ll have to share our guilt”, emphasising the need to “share” in society. This links to Priestley’s socialist concepts, additional highlighting the Inspector’s use as a mouthpiece for Priestley’s philosophies. There is an emphasis on “we” in the Inspector’s speech and last handful of lines, which portrays the value of togetherness and socialism. Additionally, in the final speech, the Inspector states “they will be taught in fire, blood and anguish”. The “they” right here are people like Mr.Birling with capitalist views. Fire and blood and anguish’ brings up photos of the two wars fought just prior to the play was written. A lot of of Priestley’s initial audiences would have been directly impacted by this, so the images designed are emotional as effectively as violent. This could also be connected to the Russian revolution, in which poor workers in “anguish” took over the state and exacted a “blood”y revenge against the capitalist society who had treated them so badly. “Fire” also draws up photos of hell, displaying the enormity of the consequences of capitalist actions. Priestley highlights variations in between the characters’ views by altering lighting. On the entry of the Inspector, the lights are changed to “harder” and “brighter” white lights. These lights are normally employed in theater by practitioners as “anti-illusionary” devices to avoid the audience from getting carried away by the play and alternatively query the main message of it. In this case, the Inspector’s actions are generating the audience think, and thus far more value is placed on his character by means of lights.
Mr.Birling and the Inspector have contrasting views on duty. Mr.Birling thinks it is his “duty to preserve labour costs down” and “cannot accept any responsibility” for difficulties to do with any individual outside his loved ones. However this “duty” is not the kind of duty Priestley wants the audience to take. This “duty” is one that is towards himself and other businessmen who make income. He is not performing his “duty” to workers like Eva who want a living wage. Moreover Mr.Birling cannot “accept any responsibility” when it comes to assisting others in the neighborhood despite their class. The fact that he cannot accept “any” responsibility shows he is not willing to take up even a small bit of duty, highlighting his stubborn charges. His bias towards fulfilling his “duty’ to maintain “labour charges down” correctly showcases how the capitalists like Mr.Birling would choose what they favoured as their responsibility and “duty”. The Inspector on the other hand considers everybody as “members of one body”. While Mr.Birling considers duty as some thing he can “accept” or decline, the inspector has a a lot more significant and compulsory view on taking duty as he calls everybody a “member” making use of a more formal tone. The formal terms “member” and “body” are used to refer to basic people in society, which highlights the compulsion and seriousness of taking up responsibility as opposed to merely treating it as a decision which Mr.Birling believed he could stop and not “accept”.
The two characters are, in the final evaluation, portrayed as total opposites. This is due to Mr.Birling’s foolish over-confident attitude contrasting with the Inspector’s “massiveness” and powerful impressions left on the audience of 1942 by means of use of lighting, characterisation and structure of dialogue. Moreover, both characters have various views on socio-political elements Mr.Birling is a capitalist with views contrasting with the Inspector’s socialist views. In addition, considering that the Inspector is utilized as a mouthpiece for Priestley’s socialist views on society, his character is presented as much more respected and given a lot more significance than Mr.Birling.
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