How is Arthur Birling presented at the start of Act 1?
In 'An Inspector Calls' Mr Birling is shown to be rather pompous, egocentric, brash, pretentious and materialistic. He constantly is referring to his social status and class, and talks excessively about his business to Eric. All whilst in the presence of Gerald in the means of impressing him, as he is to marry Sheila, his daughter.
At the very beginning of the play, within the stage directions, Mr Birling is described as a, "Heavy looking portentous man". What Priestly is trying to show the audience is that Arthur is "Heavily" set on his ways. He is said to be, "portentous", showing off his pompous behavior and the high pride he has in himself, also on his social status. This is proven many times in Act 1, the most obvious reference to this is when he refers to Gerald and himself, saying: "we hard-headed practical men of business". This proves to us that he cares deeply about his reputation and how he is seen socially as he is classing himself and Gerald in the same social ranking, even though he is clearly aware of the social differentiation between the two.
Similarly, Arthur Birling only ever speaks about himself and how things affect him and his business. This shows his self-consumed and egotistical nature. He is also impatient and irritable, "(after a pause, with a touch of impatience)". The fact that Mr Birling has become so "impatient" in such a short time shows the audience that he is a rather brash and poignant towards others that do not serve him any purpose, or benefit him. The play goes on and Birling gets even more irritated with the inspector. This hints at his guilt, as when the Inspector informs him that he is investigating everyone, Birling relaxes and apologises with a "(marked change of tone)". He even jumps to the conclusion that Eva Smith had been fired from Milwards because of poor work, with the remark of: "Not doing her work properly?" He seems to believe that all lower class people working in upper class businesses must in fact be bad workers. This stereotyping shows how the upper class saw workers in those days. This shows the audience that part of what Priestly was trying to show in writing this play, is that upper-classed people looked down u...