Study sets, textbooks, questions
Upgrade to remove ads
Mr Birling key quotations
Terms in this set (7)
'His own way...'
'A man has to make his own way - has to look after himself - and his family too'
Priestley uses Birling to highlight selfish capitalist views.
Right before Inspector Goole arrives, Birling is seen trying to educate Gerald and Eric on how he feels the world should work - he encourages them to only think about themselves and not to help anyone else in society.
He feels that people can only be responsible for themselves - he feels that everyone is responsible for their own fate.
He thinks if people fail, it is their own fault.
'I can't accept any responsibility'
Throughout the play, Mr Birling refuses to accept that he played any part in Eva Smith's death.
He argues that his involvement with Eva was so small and unimportant that it could not have led to her death.
He implies that Eva's misfortune was her own fault.
Birling shows upper-class pre-war attitudes of denial (not accepting blame) and refusing to acknowledge the consequences that their actions had on lower-class people.
'Well, it's my duty to keep labour costs down'
'Well, it's my duty to keep labour costs down, and if I'd agreed to this demand for a new rate we'd have added about twelve per cent to our labour costs.' Here's an analysis of this key quote from Act 1:
Mr Birling is used to show the capitalist viewpoint throughout the play.
His primary aim is to succeed in business, and so he cares about money more so than people.
He argues with Inspector Goole that he could not have raised Eva Smith and the others' wages, as he needs to run his business effectively - he needs to make as much money as possible, which he cannot do if he pays the workers more.
This highlights the selfishness of capitalism. Capitalism was designed to reward the business owners, not those actually doing the work.
'Is there any reason why my wife should answer questions from you, Inspector?' Here's an analysis of this key quote from Act 2:
Patriarchal head of the household. This quotation highlights Mr Birling as the patriarchal (male ruling) head of his household.
Mr Birling assumes a protective role over his wife.
He tries to defend her while treating her as if she cannot defend herself. This power struggle returns between the two men, while Mrs Birling is not directly addressed, even though the conversation is about her. Entitled upper-middle-class man
Alternatively, this could be more about Birling highlighting his expectations as a member of the upper middle class - he does not feel that the Inspector's questions deserve any sort of response from his upper-class wife.
He feels that she is above this interrogation.
The tone of this seems quite condescending on Birling's part, and is designed to put the Inspector in his place.
Mrs Birling will not even respond to him herself because he is beneath her.
'You! You don't seem to care about anything'
You! You don't seem to care about anything. But I care. I was almost certain for a knighthood in the next Honours List.' Here's an analysis of this key quote from Act 3:
Mr Birling exclaims this at Eric.
The irony here is clear - Mr Birling repeatedly says that Eric doesn't care about anything; in reality, it is Mr Birling who does not care about anyone but himself.
Disconnects from family Mr Birling uses the second person pronoun 'you' to verbally (with words) attack his son and show how he is separating Eric's ideas from his own - they have become 'you' and 'I', two very different people who have completely opposite ideas about life.
Eric wants the family to take responsibility for their actions and think of other people, while Birling is obsessed with his reputation and is desperate to get his knighthood.
This shows a huge crack in the façade (fake image) of the Birling family.
'I've got to cover this up as soon as I can'
Mr Birling, as is consistent (stays the same) with his character throughout the play, only cares about covering up this story so it doesn't affect their reputations, social status, or his chance at receiving a knighthood.
He consistently shows a selfish, self-centred attitude. He obsesses over his reputation. He is not very concerned with the consequences of his actions.
'this makes a difference...'
This makes a difference, y'know. In fact, it makes all the difference'.
As far as Mr Birling is concerned, the most important factor in the story is that Inspector Goole is not a real police inspector.
This is vital for Birling because he knows that the story of Eva Smith is now unlikely to end in a scandal for him.
He doesn't care about his actions on the girl's life or the effect of these actions on the girl herself.
If the Inspector has no connection to the police, he has no power to cause problems for Birling, and so Mr Birling is prepared to forget the whole story and continue with life as before.
Sets found in the same folder
An inspector calls - key quotations
Mrs Birling key quotes
AIC sheila key quotes
Other sets by this creator
Theme 2 - changing environments
AIC inspector Goole key quotes
AIC Gerald Croft key quotes
AIC eric key quotations