An Inspector Calls

by: J. B. Priestley

Arthur Birling

Arthur’s primary concerns are the Birling family’s good name and his ability to climb in early-twentieth-century English society. Arthur is aware that, although his firm is successful, it is not as successful as the Crofts’. Arthur also does not yet possess a formal title as the Crofts do, so he gleefully tells Gerald in Act One that he is expecting a knighthood. Although Arthur does seem somewhat upset at the idea that he contributed to Eva Smith’s death, he is more upset that his family’s implication in the scandal would become public. This would mean that the knighthood might be withheld, and that Birling would no longer continue his social ascent.

Arthur’s opinion, that men ought only to look after themselves as individuals, is a strictly capitalist mentality, in which owners of capital value only profits, and do not care for workers’ rights. As Sheila says in Act Three, the Inspector calls just as Arthur tells Eric and Gerald that they must put their own interests before anyone else’s, and that socialist ideas of human brotherhood are strange and not to be trusted. Sheila wonders if the Inspector’s visit was meant to prove to Arthur that people’s lives are actually very complexly intertwined.


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