Inspector Google Character Essay Question

Planning your answer

Before beginning an answer, it is important that you plan it carefully. You must ensure that all the points you make are relevant to the question and that you are addressing the assessment objectives.

Below is a structure you could use for your answer:

  1. Introduction - show you know where the extract is from.
  2. Who is Mr Birling?
  3. Point 1 - How is he presented in this extract?
  4. Point 2 - What ideas does he represent?
  5. Point 3 - How is he presented in the rest of the play? Does he change?
  6. Conclusion - sum up your main ideas.

Sample answers

Consider how Mr Birling is presented in the extract and the ideas he represents.

Sample answer 1

In this extract Mr Birling is shown as being ignorant; he makes a joke out of young peoples' behaviour, suggesting "you don't know what some of these boys get up to nowadays" but he does not know that his own son has been drinking heavily and mistreating Eva Smith. Mr Birling also shows that he is very arrogant, stating that "a man has to make his own way - has to look after himself" showing that Mr Birling believes that everyone should look after themselves. J B Priestley did not believe this. He thought we should look after one another. Finally, Mr Birling shows that he can be quite sexist. After talking to Eric and Gerald, he says that they will "join the ladies. That'll stop me giving you good advice". Mr Birling sees men and women as being two separate species: the advice he gives is only good for the men that he is with. This shows that he does not see men and women as equal.

Feedback - good but could be improved

  • This answers the question but there could definitely be further exploration.
  • There are good quotations chosen but they explain their impact rather than explore them. They could consider the impact on the audience further.
  • Some of the writer's ideas are mentioned but there is not enough detail. Ideas on age, social responsibility or context of the play are not mentioned.

Sample answer 2

Priestley presents Mr Birling in a negative light in this extract. Priestley does this by showing Mr Birling's ignorance when he says that they "don't know what some of these boys get up to nowadays." He is joking here about the behaviour of young men, but he has no idea that his own son has a drink problem, has stolen money from him and has had an affair that resulted in an unwanted pregnancy. Perhaps Priestley is making a point about gender and age, that older male role models do not take the excesses of younger men as seriously as they should. This lack of understanding between the generations is reflected again when Mr Birling states that "so many of you don't seem to understand now". Mr Birling again shows his ignorance, referring to young men as 'you', putting them all together in one group and not seeing them as individuals. Mr Birling’s ideas about social responsibility are summed up when he tells Eric and Gerald that is “a man has to make his own way – has to look after himself”. Here Priestley presents in a very obvious way Mr Birling’s selfish outlook and lack of concern for others, highlighting one of his key ideas in the play, that of social responsibility. Mr Birling doesn’t agree with the idea that we should look after one another “like bees in a hive”; Priestley strongly disagreed with this idea and used the play to try to convince the audience of the time that they should care for the needy, not just ignore them. It is interesting to note that whilst Mr Birling is in the middle of his speech, suggesting that a man should "look after himself and his own-and-", he is interrupted by the 'sharp ring' of the doorbell. This signals the arrival of the Inspector. The ring of the doorbell at this moment could be a suggestion by Priestley that it signals the arrival of a character who has the power to interrupt Mr Birling and to challenge his arrogant assumptions.

Feedback - much better!

  • This answer shows a good understanding of the question. The response is clear, thoughtful and evaluative.
  • The quotes are explored in detail, considering the impact of specific words. The impact on the audience could be looked at more.
  • The answer shows a clear understanding of the ideas that J B Priestley wanted to get across with this play and the points are explored fully. There could be a bit more detail around context - what were the issues at the time of writing?

Use the skills you have learnt and revised whilst reading this chapter and write your own response to An Inspector Calls. Time yourself and try to hit all the assessment objectives.

I would like critique on this essay please

Arthur Birling says, ‘If we were all responsible for everything that happened to everybody we’d had anything to do with, it would be very awkward, wouldn’t it?’
How does Priestley present ideas about responsibility in An Inspector Calls? (30 marks)
Priestley cleverly uses the contrasting personalities of all of the characters in the Birling family along with the socialist Inspector who is a mouthpiece for Priestley’s view in the morality play. The inspector is seemingly the most responsible in his ideas, as we can see by the connotations of his speech as well as his judgement of the Birling family. He also offers supernatural themes to this otherwise normal play. Priestley sets the scene within the Birling household of a rich family who are very self- satisfied and somewhat ignorant sitting at the table discussing future prospects with the family.

Priestley conveys his own personal ideas about the social class system within the play through Inspector Goole, who could be seen as a mouthpiece for Priestley’s opinion in the play. In act one of the play the Inspector is introduced as someone who ‘creates at once an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness’ This suggests that the inspector is very wise and ‘purposefulness’ can imply that the Inspector knows what his duty is in terms of interrogating the Birling family and also he has a strong sense of social responsibility. Following this, when offered whisky the Inspector immediately emphasises the fact that he is ‘on duty’. This conveys to the audience that the inspector knows what his responsibility is at that point in time and whatever is a distraction is not important to him whatsoever. The Inspector is also portrayed as a moral being who realises that the Birling family’s contribution to Eva’s death was unethical and also due to a lack of social responsibility, in the sense that all of the wrongdoings to Eva also known as Daisy Renton were an equal contribution of their abuse of social authority. The Inspector says “we are members of one body.” This is biblical language that would have been preached by Jesus Christ in the bible, who knew not to do wrong, and had a very strong sense of responsibility. As well as this the Inspector clearly states later in the play that each of the Birling family ‘helped to kill her’. This shows that Priestley believed the Inspector to be the most responsible and morally enlightened character and as a result used him as a mouthpiece of his own views, because he realised that it was through the multi contribution of social abuse and the idea of social hierarchy was what lead to Eva committing suicide.

Linking in with this, Birling has a completely contrasting identity in this play in comparison with the Inspector and seems to lack social awareness, which is conveyed through the use of dramatic irony. In act one, Birling states that the Titanic is ‘absolutely unsinkable’, which of course the audience knows will already take place. Birling’s rich status is clearly a key contribution to lack of social awareness because he believes that life is as perfect as it is for his family for everyone, which is not the case whatsoever. This shows a lack of responsibility because it is evident that Birling does not know the extremes of life in terms of poverty and suffering and as a result he believes that nothing bad can come of the Titanic sailing just because it is built with a lot of money. As well as this, Birling shows a clear lack of social responsibility because he refuses to take any blame for Eva smith’s death. This takes place when he refers to Eva as a ‘wretched girl’. By calling Eva ‘wretched’ this portrays connotations of ignorance to the audience because Birling does not show any remorse even though he knows Eva has died and still makes it clear that he considers her a nuisance that deserved to be fired from his works. Birling may be a mouthpiece of some ignorant people who are at the top of society who refuse to take responsibility for the possible harm they may be causing to those lower down in the social class system such as Eva. The stage direction of ‘still angrily’ shows that instead of taking responsibility for his actions, Mr Birling is instead reacting aggressively and refusing to accept the fact that he contributed to Eva’s death in any way.

However, Priestley does portray some aspects of the Birling family in a good light with the younger generation. He paints the image of a bright future in the absence of the abusing of social class with the reformation of Sheila throughout the play. This is done through the use of the stage direction ‘miserably’ to convey Sheila’s reaction vividly to the audience. ‘Miserably’ shows to the audience that Sheila is clearly showing remorse for what how she had treated to Eva and clearly contributed to her death and is willing to take responsibility for her actions and move forward positively. Another clear connotation of Sheila thinking about others apart from the family is where she asks the question ‘So I’m really responsible?’ This is a personal question that makes it seem as if Sheila is actually asking herself this, which shows that she is pondering deeply about what she did and how she practiced the idea of social responsibility in the past. In this way Sheila could move on and amend her past mistake by focusing on not abusing her social class in the future, in this way she develops a very strong relationship with the Inspector. Priestley could be implying here that the younger audience viewing the play were supposed to act in the same way as Sheila and really take in to account social responsibility to create a better future.

In conclusion, Priestley conveys ideas about responsibility positively in the form of Sheila and the Inspector but also negatively in the form of Mr Birling, who refuses to accept any responsibility for what he has done. Priestley does this through his effective use of language and also stage directions in the play to convey a clear image to the audience on how the character is feeling and reacting to the various testing situations in the play.

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