Gerald: “And, what if he does know?” Mr Birling: “Then we’ll have to think quickly, won’t we?” There is silence for a couple of minutes. They are all waiting for a knock at the door. Mrs Birling: “When the Inspector arrives this time, I’m going to ask him for some proof of identity. I don’t want to be caught off my guard like I was last time.” Mr Birling: “Yes, we must. As I said before, if any of this gets out, we shall all be ruined. You know, I think I shall use my influence and get us a room on the Titanic, which sails in July. We need to get away from all this and be able to mix with people of quality rather than the people round here. I am afraid that some of their habits may have rubbed off on some of us.”
He looks pointedly at Gerald. Mrs Birling: “I’d like that.” Gerald: “Would I be able to come as well? I need to spend some time alone with Sheila.” Mr Birling: “Then it’s settled. We’ll all sail on the Titanic. We can spend a few weeks in America and come back when all of this has blown over. It will be as if nothing…” He is interrupted by a knock at the door. All three exchange worried glances and get up to go to the door. Inspector: “Hello! My name is Inspector Goole”. Everybody looks shocked “And I’ve just arrived in Brumley from Scotland Yard. I’ve been talking with Miss Birling and Eric here.” Sheila and Eric appear behind the Inspector looking guiltily at the others. Sheila looks at Mr Birling who has a murderous look in his eyes.
Inspector: “I believe they are your children.” Mr Birling: “They are.” Inspector: “Good. I have come to ask you a few questions. A girl died in the Infirmary about an hour ago. She had swallowed disinfectant and died a horrible death. From what I heard, I believe that you knew her?” Mr Birling: “What was her name?” Inspector: “Eva Smith.” The curtain falls with everybody standing in the hallway looking at each other with confused expressions, not knowing what to make of the Inspector’s comments.
Explanation I chose to write this scene in the play because I wanted to try to explain how the Birlings tried to work out what the Inspector had said to them. At the start of the scene both Eric’s and Sheila’s tempers are stretched because of how their parents and Gerald have been trying to dismiss the Inspector’s visit and what they had done to Eva. Mr Birling is confused about where the inspector came from and why. He ignores this because he is happy that there won’t be scandal about the affair. He speaks in a calm but jolly voice.
I have included Eric pouring himself the drinks because I want to show that he still has a drinking problem but that he is trying to stop. When Eric and Sheila leave the house after Sheila has just said, “I don’t care about any of that any more!” neither Eric nor Sheila can continue with the idea that they will have to lie to the Inspector about what they have done. At this point Sheila is almost crying and slams the door as she leaves. Eric is anxious and worried for his sister so he walks out calmly but quickly so that he can catch up with her. When they have left, the other three try to ignore what has happened and what Eric and Sheila said. Each of them speaks calmly but is a little unsure because they don’t know what Eric and Sheila are going to do.
After Mr Birling has said, “Then we’ll have to think quickly, won’t we?” there is a long pause. I have put this in to show that the are all waiting for the Inspector who they know will arrive very soon. None of them know what to say. When they do speak, they speak quietly and slowly. When the Inspector finally arrives, they all walk to the front door. They don’t send Edna because they don’t want her to find out about what they have done.
Mr Birling opens the door slowly, apprehensive of what he will find. Throughout this part Mr Birling is trying to speak calmly but doesn’t manage this very well. He is shocked when the Inspector tells him that his name is Inspector Goole because he knows that Goole was the name of the last Inspector. When he sees Sheila and Eric behind the Inspector he becomes very angry. He leans up against the door for support and his hands start to shake. His voice suddenly becomes cold and heartless and he stares straight at the inspector. His speech has slowed down and he seems to be spelling the words out to himself in his mind.
Behind him, both Gerald and Mrs Birling are too shocked to speak. Gerald is worried that this will not only ruin both his father and Mr Birlings’ businesses but it will mean that he will not be able to marry Sheila. Mrs Birling stares straight ahead when she hears that her children have betrayed her. She doesn’t show any emotion and the only signs that show that she is worried are that she seems to seize up when she hears the Inspectors name and the name of the girl that died. From the start of the scene until when the Inspector calls, the action takes place in the dining room. The places where the characters are in this room are sketched below.
Eric is standing near the drinks because he wants to keep having a drink but seems to be trying to stop himself. Eric and Sheila are sitting next to each other because Gerald is trying to make up with Sheila even though Sheila doesn’t want to. Mr Birling is sitting at the head of the table because he still wants to show himself as the head of the household. Mrs Birling is sitting next to him because she wants to be with her husband. There is a door from this room leading into the hall. This is sketched below with the characters marked in their positions.