An Inspector Calls is a play set in 1912 and was first performed in 1945. Arthur Birling is a 'heavy-looking, rather portentous man in his middle fifties with fairly easy manners but rather provincial in his speech' as described by J. B. Priestley in the play. He is the owner of Birling and Co. which is a factory that employs several hundred young women. He is also the husband of Sybil Birling and the father of Sheila and Eric Birling. He was an alderman for years and Lord Mayor two years ago, as of now he is a Magistrate. This shows that he is quite a powerful and influential man in the days.
In the beginning of act one, the Birling family and Gerald Croft are celebrating for Sheila's engagement to Gerald. Mr Birling sees this engagement as a chance for business expansion and merging Birling and Co. with their rivals. He said that he 'looks forward to the time Crofts and Birlings are no longer competing but are working together for lower costs and higher prices.' He stated that the family party is 'one of the happiest nights of my life.' not only because his daughter, Sheila is getting engaged but also the merging of Birling and Co with Crofts Limited. He is very pleased with his achievements and calls himself 'a hard-headed businessman'. When the inspector arrived, he bragged about having been 'an alderman for years and Lord Mayor two years ago' to impress him. He intimidated the inspector saying 'I know the Brumley police officers pretty well.' He even looks down on the inspector saying 'I don't like your tone.'.
Arthur Birling is an absolute capitalist. He pictures a socialist community 'as if we were all mixed up together like bees in a hive' and he thinks socialist ideas that emphasises on 'looking after everybody else' are 'nonsense'. He strongly believes that 'a man has to make his own way - has to look after himself - and his family too'.