Mr. Birling describes the politics of the day as revolving around “Capital versus Labor agitations.” Mr. Birling is a representative Capitalist, who cares only about his company’s profit. He speaks of himself as “a hard-headed, practical man of business,” and looks forward to the prospect of being knighted. The girls who lead a worker’s strike in his factor, meanwhile, represent the Labor side of the conflict in trying to improve the rights and wages of laborers and the lower classes.
Birling loosely articulates his understanding of the agitations in his speech to Eric and Gerald: “a man has to make his own way—has to look after himself…and so long as he does that he won’t come to much harm… But the way some of these cranks talk and write now, you’d think everybody has to look after everybody else, as if we were all mixed up together like bees in a hive—a man has to mind his own business and look after himself.” The Inspector speaks the voice of Socialism, of the Labor side of the conflict; he seeks to make the Birlings realize the implicit corruption of Capitalism by emphasizing how easy it was for them to cause pain for the lower class without even realizing at the time the significance of their own actions.
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Class Politics Quotes in An Inspector Calls
There’s a good deal of silly talk about these days—but—and I speak as a hard-headed business man, who has to take risks and know what he’s about—I say, you can ignore all this silly pessimistic talk. When you marry, you’ll be marrying at a very good time.
I tell you, by that time you’ll be living in a world that’ll have forgotten all these Capital versus Labor agitations and all these silly little war scares. There’ll be peace and prosperity and rapid progress everywhere.
A man has to make his own way—has to look after himself—and his family, too, of course, when he has one—and so long as he does that he won’t come to much harm. But the way some of these cranks talk and write now, you’d think everybody has to look after everybody else, as if we were all mixed up together like bees in a hive.
Birling: It’s a free country, I told them.
Eric: It isn’t if you can’t go and work somewhere else.
Inspector: There are a lot of young women living that sort of existence, Miss Birling, in every city and big town in this country.
Sheila: But these girls aren’t cheap labor. They’re people.
If there’s nothing else, we’ll have to share our guilt.
There are millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, with what we think and do. We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other.