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An Inspector Calls - Who is responsible for the death of Eva Smith?

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Introduction

In the play An Inspector Calls the Inspector takes the audience on a journey through the life of Eva Smith leading up to her death and the part that each of the other characters played in it. By the end of the play we know that they were all guilty of mistreating someone, even if it wasn't the same girl. However, if Eva Smith, Daisy Renton and the girl who came to the Brumley women's council were all the same girl, and she subsequently died because of their actions, which character was most responsible for her death? The Inspector speaks first to Mr Birling, a respected and important member of the Brumley community. Just moments before he enters, Birling is talking of having to make your own way and look after yourself. This shows his attitude to towards the world; he doesn't bother about other people unless they can help him. Birling was associated with Eva Smith because she worked at his factory. He tells us she was a good worker and was about to be promoted just before he 'discharged her'. Mr Birling's motive for firing Eva Smith was an economic one; Eva was one of the ringleaders of a group of workers who went on strike to get higher wages, twenty five shillings a week instead of twenty two and six. The strike did not last very long and Mr Birling allowed them to return at the normal rates except for four or five ringleaders, Eva Smith was one of them. Birling says it was his 'duty to keep labour costs down'. He doesn't think he did anything wrong in firing Eva Smith because she had 'far too much to say' and 'had to go', and he does not feel guilt or responsibility for her death. However, he does accept what he did even if he doesn't think it makes him responsible. Later in the play, Birling is very relieved to find out the inspector was not really a police inspector. ...read more.

Middle

He took her to a hotel for a drink and, finding out she was hungry, something to eat. He discovered later that she was going to be turned out of her flat and so insisted she moved into a set of rooms belonging to a friend which had been left in his care while his friend was in Canada. He tells us that he didn't offer her the rooms because he wanted to keep her as his mistress but that he just felt sorry for her and didn't ask for anything in return. He says that Eva becoming his mistress was 'inevitable' because she was young, pretty, warm-hearted and intensely grateful. (But was this true, perhaps for someone with Gerald's morals! Would a decent man really have taken advantage of her?) The affair ended in the first week of September when Gerald had to go away on business. It seems, from Gerald's description, that Eva knew already that it was coming to an end and was 'very gallant' about it. I think that Gerald didn't really see what she really felt because he was relieved that it was over and she didn't make a big fuss about it. Gerald did not know what she planned to do afterwards but the inspector says she went away for a while to think about it and remember and that is why I think it was more important to her than to Gerald. Throughout Gerald's story of his involvement with Eva Smith Sheila interrupts and I think this influences the audience because you feel a little sympathy for Gerald being interrogated by both the Inspector and Sheila. However, it also brings up points which may have been missed if Sheila did not mention them. For example: 'you were the wonderful fairy prince. You must have adored it.' Gerald's disloyalty to Sheila is an issue when it comes to how responsible he is for Eva's death. ...read more.

Conclusion

I think Eric should shoulder quite a large proportion of the blame for Eva's suicide as he had possibly the largest influence on her life and was one of those who treated her the worst ('as if she were an animal, a thing, not a person' - Inspector) In conclusion I agree with the Inspector that the person with the least blame should be Gerald Croft as he gave her happiness for a while and some love and affection. I think that a small amount of blame should be placed upon Mr Birling as he treated Eva badly but it was a few years ago and although he started it all, he does feel some regret throughout the play, though perhaps less at the end when he thinks he is off the hook. I think Sheila should be next as she shows deep regret for her actions and her involvement was just bad luck that she was caught on a day when she was in a bad mood. She felt guilty about the incident even before the Inspector called, showing that she is really a good person, probably just influenced by her parents. I think Mrs Birling should have quite a large amount of blame placed on her as she never shows any regret or guilt for her actions and insists throughout that she did nothing wrong when it is obvious to the audience that she did. Also because she was cruel in a position when she needed to be kind and abused her position. Finally, I think Eric should be found most responsible for the death of Eva Smith because he never did the right thing concerning her and he got her pregnant which is why she went to Mrs Birling' committee so without Eric, Mrs Birling would not be involved. Really, it did not really matter who was most responsible because the outcome was the same; Eva Smith died and if this wasn't just a play we would all be very concerned about it. Thank God it is only a play. Laura Coles 9R - 1 - ...read more.

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