Historical values

These comments suggest that Birling sees his own son as a lay-about who spends his money and has nothing better to do; this has in effect caused some problem between father and son. Being a brutally honest and out spoken man, Birling goes on to praise himself once again, ‘they worked us hard and kept us short of cash’ which states that men these days work little or less and that the work is much easier than in Birling’s days. Which in turn also shows how self-satisfied this man is. He goes on to making several other points indicating his experiences to the two young men clearly stating that it isn’t a ‘lecture’ for the men.

Arthur Birling’s capitalist nature can be observed in several scenes within this play. In this instance, his attitude of how working men have to ‘look after himself first and then his family – if he has one’ and then goes on to saying that ‘some cranks and writers (Labour) think that everybody has to look after everybody else, as if we were all mixed up like bees in a hive – community and all that nonsense’ indicates the capitalist within the character – Arthur Birling. Hence, in Arthur Birling’s ‘good hard school of experience’ a ‘man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own’

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How he is used to convey the author’s views: Through the portrayal of Arthur Birling as a dedicated capitalist, J.B Priestley has clearly defined how much reservation he has against such people. The character is that of a man with little or no compassion for his fellow workers, especially those people of ‘low status in society’ or ‘manual workers’ within his company. He feels that ‘rich should get richer and the poor should remain basically the same’. In Birling’s case people of low status or manual workers cannot ask for more money, they should be satisfied with the money they are getting.

Progress is also seen in the same manner by the character. He sees his own and every other country in the world progressing apart from Russia, which according to Birling is ‘behindhand’ due to it being a communist country. The character’s personality (as a capitalist) is further exposed in his lack of feelings towards his family members. Every opportunity is seen as a ‘profit through gain venture’. The celebration of his daughter’s engagement to the wealthy, well-bred young man, Gerald is seen as a ‘business opportunity’. Arthur expresses that the marriage between his daughter Sheila and Gerald will enable Birling and Crofts to expand.

The social/historical values he represents: Arthur Birling’s character within this play expresses clearly that ‘the rich should stay rich and the poor should remain poor’. Being obviously from an upper middle class himself, Birling’s feels that the social and class barriers within the society can not be passed. In his opinion, Russia is seen as a ‘behindhand’ country. As a communist country everyone is seen as equal in Russia. For Arthur this is basically ‘wrong’, as poor could never be equal to the upper or middle classes in society. From Birling’s point of view every other country is progressing or developing, ‘in a year or two we’ll have aeroplanes that will be able to go anywhere’ he states to the two young men. He then goes on, speaking about the advancement in the automobile industry and the launch of the Titanic.

Birling’s feelings and capitalist attitude is expressed again in his reaction to the death of one of his ‘low paid employees’ Eva Smith. He disagrees with the creation of the ‘Trade Unions’, where a ‘group of individuals’ cannot in Birling’s opinion ‘encourage people to strike’ and ‘ask for more pay and equality’. Seeing that his workers were starting to stand up to Birling, he decided to sack the small number of Unionists, which clearly shows his uncaring employer attitude towards his workers. By sacking these people Birling keeps the ‘labour cost down’.