This is an introduction to my essay on the book “An Inspector Calls”. In my essay I will carefully review and decide who is the most responsible for the death of Eva Smith. But first I will write a paragraph about the author. The author of the book was J.B Priestly. John Boynton Priestly was born in Bradford, Yorkshire on the 13 September 1894 the same year in which his mother died. From the age of around 16 Priestly knew he wanted to write. He believed that classrooms and labs would not help him to become a writer.
He was a patriotic socialist who was passionate about the need for social change to benefit the poor. During the war he expressed his feelings over the radio. Priestly had also seen the tragic horrors and effects of the war, which I think makes him a better writer. There is also the surprising fact that it only took Priestly just over a week to finish the whole book. As the book says “An Inspector Calls was that of the effects of an individuals actions over a passage of time.”
The play was written in 1939 but ironically set in 1912. And also in the play he makes some references to things that where about to happen such as the Titanic ship being unsinkable “The Titanic- she sails next week …… and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable.” In the time the play was set coincides with what Mr Birling’s character is like. As, this was the period of time, which was often referred to as the “Golden Age”; this was a time in which middle class people thought about themselves. But not all of these people acted like this out of ignorance. The pay was low and the hours where long. It did not help that the unemployment rate was so high. But for the middle and high class, they where living a life of leisure and ignorant of the reality of life for the lower classes.
“An Inspector Calls” is a play that works on two levels. First, the Birling’s as a middle class family and also as a representative of society as a whole. The Birlings’ lived as a typical example of a middle class family at that time. On an other level, they are a prime example of ignorance in society at that point in time.
During the play you begin to realize that the part played by the Inspector is the moral conscious of society. He forces each and every one of the characters to acknowledge their part in Eva’s death – Even the characters that would at first accept no responsibility for the whole thing. The play has a surprising affect on the audience. It is moralistic, as you don’t always realize that your actions have consequences. The dramatic nature keeps the audience interested throughout. Now I am going to go on to write a short paragraph about each character and how they are responsible for the suicide of Eva Smith.
Mr. Birling: Eva Smith worked in Mr. Birling’s factory. She was fired for asking for a pay rise but also rallying all the other workers to take a stand. But I do think that the request for a pay rise was very justified as Mr. Birling was a very tight fisted man. And there is also evidence in the text, explaining that Eva was a very good worker, ” A good worker too” (Mr. Birling explaining to the Inspector.
Personally I think that Mr. Birling is not really to blame, but did in actual fact start of the chain of eventsby firering the younge girl which obviously forced her to get her next jb as I will rite about later. Birling was guilty of the sin “Pride”. After he had spoke to the Inspector, he still truly believes he has nothing to do with the matter; as he says “It has nothing to do with the wretched girls suicide”. By this statement, it is clear that he feels absolutely no responsibility for the incident. In fact Mr. Birling does not change his views about actions and consequences throughout the play.
Sheila: Shelia played a vital role in the death of Eva Smith as she had Eva fired from her second job, which she did enjoy. I think that Sheila is guilty of the sin of ‘envy’ as she was very envious of Eva, when she realized that Eva looked better in a dress than she did. After speaking to the Inspector, she begins to feel very guilty. “And if I could help her now I would -“. She also feels very responsible “So, I am really responsible.” The happenings and events drastically change the way Sheila views the effects of her actions upon others.
Gerald: Gerald was Eva’s lover during the summer but they had to end the affiar. Gerald is rather like Mr. Birling, in the sense that he still thinks he has nothing to do with the matter. Even after he has spoken with the Inspector Gerald still thinks that he has nothing at all to do with the suicide. “I don’t come into this suicide business”. Sheila is more affected by what Gerald has revealed. Gerald happens to be more interested in what Sheila is thinking/reacting towards the news of the affair. It does not really alter Gerald’s attitude in any dramatic way. Well maybe at first but not permanatly as we find out towards the end of the play.
Eric: Eric gave Eva money and they also had a small love affair. He later feels very guilty and responsible about the whole thing. Mrs. Birling (Eric’s mother) was appalled when she realized what he had done (stealing money from the factory). Mr. Birling’s first reaction is how he is going to have to hide this before anyone notices at the factory “You must give me a list of those accounts. I’ve got to cover this up as fast as I can”- still thinking of his reputation.
Mrs. Birling: She turned Eva away when she needed help the most. At the beginning of the conversation Mrs. Birling thinks she has nothing to do with it, but as the action unfolds she starts to realize more and more what she has done. And maybe even starts to accept some of the blame, but towards the end does almost exactly the same as Gerald. Eric is the most horrified by what his mother has done. And he also blames his mum for the murder “Then you killed her” (Eric said to Mrs. Birling).
Each character thinks that another character is to blame. So in conclusion I don’t think that any one character is the blame more than another. It was a ‘chain of events’. But I do think that Eric and Sheila where more affected y the reactions of people they thought they knew, and I thin that the innocence of the younger generation helps both characters realize that even if this did not really happen it could. I think that the overall message that Priestly is trying to send in “think before you act” and “all actions have consequences”. I think that it gives you something to think about. Don’t you think?