Taking Responsibility for Eva's Death in J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls

Taking Responsibility for Eva's Death in J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls

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Taking Responsibility for Eva's Death in J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls
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J.B.Priestley wrote "An Inspector Calls" after the Second World War;
it was written after the World War as people in the higher-class
thought everything was going to be okay. It was written to show how
the working class were treated by the higher -class; after the World
War everyone had to be responsible and look out for each other.
Priestley wrote about a higher-class family called the Birlings who
were all responsible for killing a young woman in the working class
called Eva Smith. Although Eva's suicide caused emotional distress, it
is important to consider just how much each character was involved in
driving Eva to commit suicide. The play gives the audience a chance to
see how responsible the higher-class families were. The inspector was
introduced in this play for moral guidance and to see how the
characters react to the suicide of this beautiful young women's death.

Mr Birling was a man of his work, a high-class man with
responsibilities to the society and his family. Mrs Birling a charity
worker was very stuck up and treated working class unpleasantly.
Sheila and Eric Birling the younger members of the family are able to
learn and show signs of maturity, but are not able to communicate with
the lower-class people as they have very proud parents, on the other
hand Mr and Mrs Birling are not able to do that as they think of no
one but themselves; they are unable to understand that everyone has
feelings and if you hurt someone it may affect the rest of their
lives. Sheila and Eric understand why the inspector was there and what
he was trying to do.

Mr Birling is the most responsible for Eva Smiths death as he was the
first person harm Eva; by sacking Eva a working class woman. Mr
Birling thought this would make things better at his factory as the
workers had been on strike as they thought they weren't getting enough
money and wanted more.

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Mr Birling disagreed with this as well as not
liking Eva, Eva was a determined young lady who knew what she wanted;
she was the ring leader of the factories employees and wanted more
money, not just for herself but for the other employees. She felt that
twenty-two and six shillings wasn't enough and asked for twenty-five
shillings, for this Mr Birling sacked her. Mr Birling never felt
guilty for what he did to Eva although he knew that Eva was a good
hard working lady as well as a troublemaker. He believed that

"a man has too make his own way to look for himself and his family
too." (Page 9)

Mr Birling is a man who doesn't care about anyone but himself and his
family; he has to protect his image and is determined to get his
knighthood. He is very glad to hear that the inspector is not real
after he has examined everyone.

" Now listen you two, if you're still feeling on the edge the least
you can do is keep quiet. Leave this to us." (Page 64)

He is very controlling and doesn't want his family involved; he thinks
his status will protect him just in case. Mr Birling has learnt
nothing from Inspector Goole as now he knows he isn't real so nothing
can happen; he feels no guilt and is not sorry for anything.


Mrs Birling is the second most responsible for Eva's death because she
was the last person to have contact with Eva; By refusing to help Eva
when Eva went to Mrs Birling charity Eva had no choice but to commit
suicide as the charity was her last hope and she was pregnant with
Eric's baby.

" She was giving herself difficult airs. She was claiming elaborate
fine feelings and scruples that were simply abused in a girl in her
position." (Page 64)

Mrs Birling thinks of Eva as a very low class girl with no principles,
Mrs Birling doesn't take the truth well as she didn't want anyone to
know about her involvements in Eva's death, as she is a very
high-class lady with high expectations. When the inspector talks to
Mrs Birling, Mrs Birling tries her hardest not to give in and changes
the suicide investigation into something that doesn't involve her.

"I felt it all the time. He never talked like one. He never looked
like one." (Page 63)

Mrs Birling has learnt nothing as she congratulates Gerald for finding
out the truth.

"I must say Gerald, you've argued this very cleverly and I'm most
grateful."(Page 70)

Mrs Birling feels there is nothing more to be done with the situation
and thinks everything is going to be okay after the night is over, she
thinks everything was a hoax, and with everything that has happened
she mocks her children. This experience has brought Mrs Birlings true
feelings out about how she feels about Eric and how she treats him;
she doesn't trust him as much as she trusts Sheila. She learns nothing
more as she is not willing to see this experience from a different
point of view.

Eric Birling the son of Mr and Mrs Birling is responsible for Eva's
death, but his irresponsibility is partly due to the parenting he has
received, Eric is responsible as he got Eva Smith pregnant on a night
when he was very drunk and he did not remember what had happened
between them. Eric tried to support Eva with stolen money but this
shows he gives no emotional support and is immature. Eric is not
totally irresponsible as he attempted to help Eva, but Eva wanted
nothing to do with him.

He acts impulsively towards Eva and learns from the consequences for
his actions. His reaction to the truth about inspector Goole not being
a real inspector well as he did not hold back his feelings and
emotions back like his mother and father.

"It doesn't alter the fact that we all helped kill her." (Page 65)

Eric shows signs of maturity when he and Sheila try to explain what
happened with the inspector.

"Whoever that chap was, the fact remains that I did what I did." (Page

Eric is able to learn from the mistakes he has made and can change how
he reacts in the future


as he has learnt from this and what his parents are like.

His parents have a big impact on his life and how he makes his
decisions. After the inspector left Eric told his parents everything
and they had no reaction, they acted as if nothing had happened that

"You're beginning to pretend nothing happened at all." (Page 64)

Eric had matured and is trying to take his responsibilities more
seriously and maturely.

Sheila Birling, Eric's sister is responsible for Eva's death but not
as much as Eric, most of Sheila's actions come from her parents who
could not face the fact that they were responsible for Eva Smith's
death, whereas Sheila was able to own up to the things she had done
wrong and realise her actions may have helped Eva Smith commit
suicide. Sheila got Eva sacked from Millwards, Sheila was jealousy got
her in a bad mood as Eva looked better in a dress then she would have
done and by getting Eva the sack she was unaware of what may happen to
her after.

''I told them if they didn't sack her then I'll shut my account.''

After the incident with inspector Goole Sheila was shocked with what
she had done to Eva.

''Sorry! It's just that I cant help thinking about this girl
destroying herself so horribly'.' (Page 17)

Sheila accepts that she was very wrong and that she could learn from
it, she learns from it and realises what the inspector was trying to
do. Sheila is the only one who knows of the inspector's intentions.
She also learns that she should not be selfish like her parents and
will try to prevent her selfishness in the future. Sheila is
influenced by her parents and is unaware of how to treat working-class
people. Sheila is not pretending that this has not happened like her
parents. She regrets what she has done to Eva Smith and she now feels
she has done something wrong. The inspector bought out the real
Sheila, the caring and responsible one. Sheila attitude changes once
the inspector has left, she tries to make her parents realise what
they have done to push Eva smith to committing suicide.

"The point is you don't seem to have learnt anything." (Page 58)

Sheila knows that her parents cannot take the truth like her and her
brother Eric; this shows that Sheila is maturing.

The person I feel is the least responsible for Eva Smith's death is
Sheila's fiancé Gerald, Gerald Croft is responsible for Eva
Smith/Daisy Renton's suicide as he set out for a sexual relationship
with her as she was young and very pretty, on the other hand Gerald
originally set out to help Eva by rescuing her from the bar and
Meggarty the old man who was after her. Gerald felt proud of himself
as he felt he was rescuing a damsel in distress as he felt like a
knight in shining armour. Gerald had mixed feelings towards Eva as he
is in love with Sheila but lusts Eva


therefore he is unaware of Eva's feelings. He helped Eva by giving her
money and a house to live in. Gerald did not take the news well as he
made it obvious that he knew her. He may not have

known Eva Smith but he knew Daisy Renton.

"Where did you get the idea that I knew her?" (Page 33)

He tries to hide the truth from Sheila, as he knows he will upset her
and get suspicious as he was staying away from her in the summer.
Gerald is able to learn a bit from his mistakes, this experience will
help him respect Sheila more and treat her more like a lady and be
honest. The inspector did not examine Gerald, as the inspector knew
that Gerald did not do much to lead Eva to commit suicide, Gerald had
made Eva happy even if it was only for a while, as she felt loved. and
fell in love with him. She felt she had security and respect. Gerald
did not know why the inspector was there and how much he knew before
entering the Birling house.

In conclusion the inspector was a very good role model not just for
the audience, but also for the Birling children. Mr Birling was the
most responsible for Eva's death as he harmed her first. There were
two people that learnt a lot, they were Sheila and Eric Birling. This
is because they were able to communicate with the inspector and
understand what he said, the inspector may make them change in the
future as they are both able to make up their own minds and understand
when they have made mistakes. They try to help their parents
understand what they have done to Eva and how they caused her to
commit suicide. Sheila and Eric will be able to learn from their
parent's mistakes, as they are the younger generation.
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