An Inspector Calls

How should Gerald, Eric and the Inspector listen to Birling's story?

(Act one)

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Birling’s speech is important, he argues, because the (left-leaning) intellectuals, “these Bernard Shaws and H.G. Wellses,” can’t be allowed to “do all the talking. We hard-headed practical business men must say something sometime.” As Birling finishes, Sybil and Sheila leave for the drawing room—and, presumably for a ticking down for his manners, she summons Eric, too. The other characters should see through Berling's prejudices. Birling’s politics of self-reliance and personal responsibility are staunchly and unashamedly capitalist, perhaps even right-wing. He believes in “low wages, high prices,” is absolutely dismissive of Eva’s strike, and, even at the close of the Inspector’s inquiry, can only limply claim that he would “give thousands” to make things better. Money, indeed, dominates the way he thinks, even to the extent that, Priestley subtly illustrates, he sees his daughter’s engagement to Gerald Croft as a financial move and potentially the first step towards a merger between the Birling and Croft businesses. Birling represents the political point of view opposite to Priestley’s own. Birling even makes himself out to be the antithesis of left-leaning writers and intellectuals generally, namely George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells, both very famously left-wing voices.