Mr Birling


Mr Arthur Birling is described as being a, _‘rather portentous man’ _and he is full of opinions about current affairs and the future (of which most are inaccurate and show him up to be a foolish person).

He has a Capitalist mentality in which he believes that everyone should be responsible for themselves.

He states: ‘a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own’.

He does not show any consideration for working class people; he sees them as a means to increase profits, whilst offering them low wages.

Throughout the play, Birling disregards socialist ideas and refuses to employ such ideals in his own attitude to family and work.

How does he feel about the engagement?
Your answer should include: Excited / Social status
Why did Mr Birling sack Eva Smith?
Your answer should include: Pay rise / Higher wages / Example / Suffragette
What is Mr Birling's character like at the end of the play?
Your answer should include: Selfish / Demanding / Confident


Arthur Birling is married to Sybil who is ‘social superior’, meaning that her family was wealthier than the Birlings.

Their seating position at the table reflects the power struggle between the couple and could also imply that this conflict is having a strain on their marriage. She is constantly correcting his social etiquette and reminding him of his inadequacies.

Mr Birling is father to two children; Sheila and Eric, who are both in their twenties. He has given them a comfortable lifestyle; Sheila can shop in opulent department stores and Eric received an affluent education and works for the family company. He is close to Sheila but Eric does not regard him as an approachable father.

In Act One, Mr Birling is extremely happy that he is soon to be aligned with the Crofts through marriage, because it will benefit him financially. The families will no longer have to be rivals in business but they can unite to make more money.

To intimidate the Inspector he refers to his friendships with upstanding men in the community.

Social Standing

Mr Birling is a wealthy factory owner and regards himself as a, ‘hard headed practical man of business’. _He is proud of himself and his accomplishments, because he has worked hard to be regarded as a Middle Class gentleman. His _‘easy manners’ _and _‘provincial’ speech shows that has not always had the luxurious lifestyle that he now enjoys.

He explains that he was once acting as a Magistrate and frequently plays golf with the Chief Police Constable to suggest that he is an influential figure in the community.

Throughout the play, he is mostly concerned about improving his social standing by receiving a Knighthood.

In Act One, he lets Gerald into his little secret and explains why he needs to maintain a good name and reputation. Then, he will have a formal title in the community and be considered an aristocrat, like the Crofts.


Mr Birling’s character remains very stagnant.

At the beginning of the play, he is very opinionated and demands respect from the younger generation. He knows that his future in-laws are not happy with Gerald’s choice to marry his daughter, therefore, he tries to impress them with talk of a Knighthood.

In Act One, Mr Birling is interrogated first. He knows the victim, because she used to work at the factory as a machinist. Although he appears to be slightly upset about the outcome of her suicide, he proudly asserts, ‘I can’t accept any responsibility’.

He believes that his sacking her happened too early on to be the final cause of her demise.

When his daughter is next to be questioned he is very defensive. He would rather not involve his daughter and attempts to protect her. In contrast to Act three when he is more concerned that his son stole from the family business than Eric’s involvement with the case.

At the end of the play, he gets excited when given opportunity to dismiss his connection with Eva Smith’s death. He remains firm in his confuted and selfish ideas, demanding that his family do likewise.