Friday, August 5, 2011

About The Birlings

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The play opens with the engagement celebration of Sheila Birling and Gerald Croft. The party takes place in the dining room of the bridal parents Arthur and Sybil BirlingLs house close to Brumley. The Birling family is very happy looking forward unto this marriage as a most ideal financial connection to the business rival Croft.


The celebrations are interrupted by the appearance of inspector Goole , who enters and confronts the participants with the unpleasant suicide of a young woman named Eva Smith. He tells that Eva Smith drank some disinfectant and died that early night in the infirmary . It becomes clear that there must be a connection between Eva Smith and the Birlings.


Eva worked in the Birling factory two years ago. She got the boot for being one of the ringleaders postulating a pay rise for the workers. The conversation indicates that every member of the party had some influence on Eva SmithLs life and way of death . Mr. Birling fired Eva Smith , Sheila complained about her to her new employer at Milwards , a cloth shop for upper classed society , so Eva was dismissed and again without any work. Gerald Croft kept her as a mistress . When she wanted to get help from a charity committee , Mrs. Birling refused help. At last the BirlingLs son Eric got Eva pregnant and was not able to persuade her to marry him for his unripeness and weakness of character.


After the inspector left the house , the Birlings turned to the question whether the inspector was a real police officer or not. They investigate calling to the hospital , where Eva Smith should have been medicated and to the local police station to get some more information about the suicide of Eva Smith or about the police officer called Inspector Goole.


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But they ascertain that nobody knows neither Eva Smith nor Inspector Goole. Suddenly the older generation , Mr. and Mrs. Birling, denies every responsibility, they even reject the accusations with great easement and Gerald joins them. Only Sheila and Eric still feel guilty and seem to have taken some warning and lessons from the event.


At the end of the play a phone call reaches the Birlings , to announce that there is a police inspector on his way to the BirlingLs House to ask them some questions about the suicide of a girl that just died on the way to the infirmary after swallowing some disinfectant.


1.. Characterisation of the play�s characters


1..1. Mr. Arthur Birling


Arthur Birling is a very rich Selfmademan. He owns a prosperous factory. He as a parvenu is married to a social higher classed wife , whose name is Sybil , who often tries to take some influence on his expressions and his acts. But he is the leading character of the family. They have got two children Eric and Sheila. He pushed the relationship between Sheila and Gerald Croft to an engagement, for he sees many advantages for his own position in society marrying his daughter to aristocracy and for his business , as Gerald is the son of his greatest rival Sir George.


Arthur Birling is a very arrogant capitalist and has an exaggerated opinion of himself. He thinks that everything that he says is true , even when time already has proven that he is wrong . This can be recognised in his statements either about the political developments preceding the first World War, as he claims that ... The Germans don�t want war ..1 and that Russia ... will always be behindhand ... , or in his opinion about the Titanic as an absolutely unsinkable ship.


When the inspector arrives , Mr. Birling thinks that itLs necessary to point out that he was .. an alderman for years - .. and ... lord mayor two years ago..4 and ... is still on the bench 51 , suggesting to the inspector his superior local position in the society of Brumley . He also talks about his relationship to the Chief Constable trying to threaten the inspector and to take his influence on the inspectors interrogation. But the inspector does not follow suit, for he is quite not interested in Mr. BirlingLs influences.


While the inspector�s examination , it becomes clear that , even though Mr.Birling tries to present himself as a very kind and fair employer , he takes money at any time and at any place he is able to. He points out that his workers deserve no more than national average pay.


As a matter of principle he fired every ringleader - also Eva Smith , even he has to admit that, though she was a very good worker in the factory .


He covers his guiltiness arguing that someone in his position has to pay attention to his own capital and that this results in certain responsibilities as to try for the highest possible prices and to hold low the costs, especially the wages.


Close to the end of the play , he begins to show remorseful emotions , but not about his part in Eva SmithLs story of life , but about a public scandal and itLs consequences for his public image.


A scandal would mean an extraordinary danger for his imminent knightship , that would rise him or higher to the social status of his wife and equal to the social status of his son-in-lawLs family Croft.


He also is obviously very sorry for he missed the chance to speak to the inspector alone in order


to bribe the inspector to get the situation under control ( ... perhaps you and I had better go and talk this over quietly in a corner... 6). This proves his capitalistic view of life. He thinks that his money is able to manage everything and that everyone has got his price.


Even in the situation when it becomes clear that his son Eric is a thief , a soaker and responsible for fathering a child to Eva Smith , he voices that he would have been able to manage things for Eric if he had come to him earlier.


It�s to be seen that money has got the preferred position in his existence. He cares more about his money than he cares about his position of trust towards his family. He also doesnLt care for his fellow men or about the harm he causes to other people because of this attitude.


He shows his real character at the end of the play , when he is sure that inspector Goole is no real policeman but just a fake. He leaves every shame and conscience far behind and is just pleased that nothing has happened in reality. in his opinion everything turns just as it was a few hours ago before the inspector arrived and he is glad that nobody stands between him and his knightship. He does not even once think about for what kind of ideals a knightship stands for and that already his deeds, his behaviour and his missing conscience are disqualifying him for this status. He is so triumphantly relieved that he jokes about the whole situation , the inspectorLs questions , and the otherLs reactions. But his panic returns when the telephone rings again and the whole story seems to happen again.


1... Mrs. Sybil Birling


Mrs. Birling is the mother of Eric and Sheila . She was born in a higher social class than her husband and shows more class consciousness than her husband. She speaks upper class English using an aristocratic vocabulary and expressions.


Mr. Birling tries to copy her style , but often uses short forms and nasty expressions of the working class. So she often corrects her husband�s and her childrenLs speech and behaviour , which proves that she obviously feels superior to the others.


She discriminates her staff and even the inspector in a very expressive way. It seems not be necessary to her to thank her cook as a member of a lower social class for the excellent dinner he made for them.


She often tries to put the inspector down using irony and sarcasm , in opposite to her husband , who uses the social posts he filled and his relationship to important persons to put pressure on the inspector. She thinks that she has got the authority to bias the inspector, as he starts to ask unpleasant questions to her family.


She as a member of a charity committee has the possibility to help the poor and everyone , who is less fortunate in life than her and demanding for help or benefits . She does not work in the committee to help others , but in order to feel and to savour the dimension of social cleft between her and those people who applied for benefits or help.


The interrogation brings out that she also is to blame for Eva SmithLs way of life and sudden death, too. She did not only refuse giving help to Eva Smith as a member of the charity organisation , but exerted influence on the committee to let them deny any possible demand or help for Eva.


She is even more hard-hearted than her husband , for she knew all the circumstances of Eva SmithLs life , being an orphan who was for a long time without any work or money , becoming one man�s mistress and getting pregnant by an other.


She knew that Eva Smith sought for help , for she wanted to change her life and that she tried hard to get things under control . Anyhow Mrs.Birling managed to refuse help.


Mrs. Birling feels no blame about her misdeeds and thinks that she decided everything the way a woman in her social position should do.


She perfectly turns the story the way she needs to seem innocent of any involvement in Eva SmithLs death ... you�re quite wrong to believe I will regret what I did ...7I was perfectly justified in advising the committee not to allow her claim for assistance ...8 I accept no blame for it all..


She thinks that she knows her family very well , but later on it is clear that she ignored many important facts about the members of her family, as the easiest way to handle things is to ignore every hint of a problem.. She has to cope with the fact that her son Eric is on his way to become an alcoholic and is under suspicion to be a thief of the family�s capital assets, too. And she has to make up her conscience that she contributed to the death of her first grandchild.


This realisation is able to move her emotions and she shows first signs of regret. but at the end of the play, after the inspector left the BirlingLs house, Mrs.Birling shares her husband�s easement and enthusiasm about the inspector being a fake. She returns to her old character and proves that she is not able to take either a warning from the instructive situation, or tolerance, or sympathy.


1... Sheila Birling


At the beginning of the play Sheila is a very naive and unripe young woman. She decides on her life adapting to her parents opinion .That makes her subjected to her parents. She really is in love with Gerald Croft and does not see this alliance as a marriage of business as her parents do. She demonstrates her love in her jealous reaction about the spring and the summer before ,when Gerald Croft did not meet her frequently .


When the inspector starts the examination she finds herself deeply involved into Eva SmithLs


fate. Being confronted with the inspector�s photograph , Sheila is really shocked identifying Eva Smith .


Suddenly Sheila feels responsible for her deeds and behaviour .She starts thinking about the kind of person she is This starts the alternation of her interior attitudes. She is candid and admits that she was the customer who exerted her influence and initiated EvaLs dismissal from Milwards where Eva worked after being fired by Arthur Birling. Sheila recognises that Eva was not guilty in that situation but her own bad temper was to be blamed. She even wanted her mother never to go shopping at Milwards again. That shows how immature Sheila was at that time , as she did not think about all sorts of consequences for EvaLs life being dropped out of her job. Short time after that she felt guilty and bad about her behaviour and told her father the story to get some advice , but he expressed that it was an irrelevant occurrence.


She is afraid that she is the only one next to her father , who is responsible for EvaLs death . But the inspector gives her some hints that she and her father were not the only ones to be blamed for EvaLs death.


She shows compassion and sentimentality. She wants to turn back the time to change her behaviour. She matures in this situation. She fully accepts her guilt and learns about responsible behaviour .


Sheila shows that she took a warning from the past as she says that ... I will never , never do it again to anybody . 10.


After she recognises that Gerald Croft had an affair with Eva Smith , she starts thinking about the kind of persons she is going to live with. This starts the alternation of her exterior attitudes. She separates herself emotionally from the others.


Later on as the inspector left the house , she insists upon her guilt unattached to what the others say.


She remains calm, and refuses taking the engagement rings from Gerald to get some time to ponder things over. She separates from her parentLs opinion and behaviour for the first time , and she recognises , that she is not able to accept her parent�s attitudes . Sheila is amazed and concerned that her parents are not willing to learn anything from the situation.


At the end of the play Sheila underwent a drastic change in character . She was a immature , giggling woman , who allowed her parents to shape her life , but now she reaches strength of character. She gets independent and shows that she learned about her responsibility to others , who are less fortunate in life than herself. She develops compassion and sympathy for all fellow men , not only for her class of society.


Her willingness to learn from this experience is contrasting to her parentsL behaviour. Only Eric joins her development, as it shows that the younger generation is more flexible and able to criticise and change itself.


1..4. Eric Birling


Eric Birling is Mr. and Mrs. BirlingLs son. He is a young and rich man working at his


father�s factory. He is the heir of the Birling factory and plans to get a higher


responsible position in the factory until he will inherit . But he is still under his father�s


control and oftentimes he is not able to suit him.


Mr.Birling Unless you brighten your ideas , you�ll never be in a position to let


anybody stay or tell anybody to go. It�s time you learnt to face a few responsibilities .


That�s something this public-school-and-Varsity life you�ve had doesn�t seem to teach


you. 11


Mr. Birling is not really prepared to divide the power in his factory , for that is the


key element in his self - comprehension.


Because Eric is not allowed to fulfil his job with the kind of responsibility he wants


to have , he does not want to adjust his private life to any responsibility. If there is


any problem he always turns to the most comfortable solution. That is the way he got


an alcoholic , to avoid to recognize with his superficial life , his dissatisfying work and


with his parents who are not able to give love, understanding and trust to him.


He shows real emotions , first of all sentimentality about the end of EvaLs and his unborn


baby�s life. And a bad conscience about Eva favouring suicide before marriage ,


because she knew him being an alcoholic and a thief.


In fact he recognises that Eva showed more conscience and greater ability to look


through all facades of the BirlingsL characters and behaviours than he was able to .


She decided to deny the money Eric offered her , for she knew it was stolen. She


recognised that Eric was an unripe young man , who was subjected to his father�s


plans for his life.


Eric was not able to tell his parents about her pregnancy. He hid their relationship


and stole some money from the factory to give it to her .This made it plain to her , that she


should not marry him. She knew him being too weak to bear up the marriage against his parents and their attitudes about a lower classed daughter-in-law. That is why Eric is also to be blamed for Eva SmithLs death.


He thinks that it does not matter whether inspector Goole was a real police officer , or


not. He thinks that the things turned out about himself and his family are more


important than the question whether this story may have serious consequences for the


participants , for example for his father losing his knighthood.


Sheila It doesn�t much matter now, of course- but was he really a police inspector?


Birling Well, if he wasn�t, it matters a devil of a lot. Makes all the difference.


Sheila No, it doesn�t.


Birling Don�t talk rubbish. Of course, it does.


Sheila Well, it doesn�t to me. And it oughtn�t to you, either.


Mrs Birling Don�t be childish, Sheila.1


[...]


Sheila But it doesn�t make any real difference, y`know?


Mrs Birling Of course, it does.


Eric Eric No, Sheila`s right. It doesn�t.1


In a way he joins Sheila�s development in character, as he is able to criticise himself at


the end of the play , but his faults will haunt him for a long time I�m not likely to


forget.14


1..5. Gerald Croft


Gerald Croft is the son of Sir George and lady Croft an old country family. The Crofts also own a factory Croft Limited and they are business rivals to the Birlings. Gerald wants to marry Sheila Birling. It seems that next to love there are other reasons for this relationship, for example a very positive financial business-effect that two rivals of the past can merge with each other now. His parents are not participating the engagement party. Even though they tolerate Gerald�s decision , they obviously think, that though Sheila comes from a very rich family , their son could have chosen better out of a higher social class .


In the beginning it is not clear whether Gerald is also to be blamed for Eva SmithLs death , just like the others. But then the inspector says that Eva changed her name after her discharge from Milwards into the alias Daisy Renton. At that moment Gerald Croft gets really a shock. He has to admit that he met Daisy in a bar among prostitutes , which is not a place a man in love planning to marry ought to be. Gerald offered Eva/ Daisy to live in the apartment of a friend then. At first he just wanted to protect her, but he claims that it was inevitable for him to start a love affair with her.


She told me she `d been happier than she `d ever been before.15


But Gerald left her after a while and gave her enough money to see her through for the next time.


Gerald feels bad because it came out that he was unfaithful to Sheila and he worries about his reputation.


He is confused about EvaLs death and wants to make up his mind by himself , in opposite to Sheila who acquaints her feelings to all the others.


In that case- as I�m rather more - upset - by this business than I probably appear to be - and - well, I`d like to be alone for a little while.16


When the inspector left the house Gerald investigates and finds out that there is no inspector Goole at the police office and that no young woman has died at the infirmary that night. Suddenly Gerald joins his parents-in-lawLs behaviour and easement about the news that the whole story is a fake. That shows he is not able to learn from his mistakes for. He easily ignores all sorts of consequences for his mistress / Daisy�s life , who exists in reality as he confessed.


Gerald entirely gets rid of the unpleasant story and continues to feast after all that has happened. Actually he wants to give Sheila the engagement ring , as if he had never admitted


having had an affair with another woman.


1..6. Inspector Goole


Inspector Goole is a mysterious person. He doesn�t work for the police, but he knows everything about the Birling family Birling and Gerald.


In the first act Inspector Goole interrupts the harmony of the family circle, which is a situation of man different emotions and great exciements. This emotional situation makes it more difficult for the others to deviate from the truth.


He starts to interrogate each person alone and one after the other. One line of inquiry at a time. Otherwise we�ll be talking at once and won�t know where we are. if youLve anything to tell me, youLll have an opportunity of doing it soon.17 or later One line of inquiry at a time. Otherwise thereLs a muddle. 18 He decides to examine that way for he wants to let anyone know everybody�s fault. He separates every interlocutor and makes the others criticise.


The inspector doesn�t care about Mr. and Mrs.Birling trying to suppress him. He does not feel that the Birlings are outclassing him and he treats them as equals. He even sometimes uses irony or sarcasm , to shake the BirlingsL self confidences and beliefs.


Mr.Birling We were having a nice little family celebration tonight...1 Inspector I was in the infirmary looking what was left of Eva Smith. A nice little promising life there I thought..0


Inspector Goole says he just wants to find out every influence on Eva SmithLs life that led to her suicide. And that�s why I�m here, and why I�m not going until I know all that happened1, but in reality he wants them take note of it , for he already knows everything of the past. He is no supernal person with supernatural abilities, but he seems to be omniscient and personifies everybodyLs conscience. He wants to make the family including Gerald aware of their faults.


The inspector makes all characters feel guilty for what they did to Eva Smith. But some of them only regret their behaviour for they fear some punishment, for example Mr. Birling is afraid of losing the knighthood or Eric is afraid of bearing the responsibility for his theft or Gerald fears not to become engaged to Sheila.


Near the end of the play the older generation hopes that inspector Goole had been a part of a fakery , but later on he seems to be a forerunner of reality. Perhaps he came to give every participated person a chance to admit their faults and guiltiness and to act dignified in the second examination .


At the end there has to be said that there is the possibility that the Inspector could have been showing each of them a different picture every time. That would mean that there had been different women treated like that. But as a matter of fact all participants should not only feel guilty for Eva SmithLs death but for their faults treating other people.


I think Goole can be seen as the personified moral of the play. He carries the guilty conscience of all the characters and shows it to them.


Four different aspects carried by inspector Goole can be found in four different passages of the play


In the passage of the first act as Mr. Birling is in the middle of a speech to Eric and Gerald about a man has to make his own way - has to look after himself - and his family too. He is cut off when the maid Edna tells Mr. Birling that an Inspector calls to see him. This might be a secret message by J.B Priestly enunciating that we don�t live to look only after our families and friends but should care about other people and their fates , too.


The inspector criticises the superficial behaviour of the upper-class against the working-class. He defends Eva`s demand for a raise But after all it�s better to ask for the earth than to take it. He shows in his behaviour that he is against the Birlings lifestyle of class distinction. He thinks the poor have any right to aim high and to require a better lifestyle


from those , who own the world and are not willing to divide .


There is another moral statement in the passage as Mrs. Birling puts every blame for Eva SmithLs situation and way of death on the unborn baby�s father. She thinks of Sheila as a kind of woman of the street without any morality. Later on she finds out that this irresponsibl man was her son Eric. And it becomes clear that Eva rejected taking the money that Eric had stolen and rejected marrying Eric even though she was in a tight squeeze. As a moral you could say something like Don�t put the blame too far away , it might catch you again.


The last statement of Inspector Goole is including the main message and the most important warning which Priestley wants to make aware of


,,[...] We don�t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. Good night.4


This means something already written in the bible, you should treat others like you want to be treated and that everyone is responsible for his neighbour. It also means that there should not exist any social classes, that everybody is as valuable as another, and no one is superior to the other.


1.. About Priestley`s plot and structure by using a description of the tension graph to show how Priestley led the reader to the climax of the play and the surprising end


This is a picture of the tension graph, which shows the the telephone rings evaluation of the tension of the story which the author J.B.Priestley used. You can see by the balloons what the story is about and you can see by the graph what emotional movement the audience goes through.





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