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To what extent is each character responsible for Eva's death? To what extent does each character learn from his/her experience?

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Introduction

TO WHAT EXTENT IS EACH CHARACTER RESPONSIBLE FOR EVA'S DEATH? TO WHAT EXTENT DOES EACH CHARCTER LEARN FROM HIS/HER EXPERIENCE? JB Priestly wrote 'An Inspector Calls' after the Second World War. After witnessing the destruction cause by the war he wanted society to realise everyone has a responsibility to each other and believed if everyone carried out their responsibility it would ensure a healthier future for coming generations. He said, 'We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And the time will soon come when if men will not learn that lesson, they will be taught in fire blood and anguish.' In this play the Birling family represent society. Mr Birling, a wealthy manufacturer is holding a family dinner party to celebrate his daughter's engagement. A police Inspector Goole intrudes this party to investigate the suicide of a young-working class woman. Under the pressure of his interrogation, every member of the family turns out to have a shameful secret which links them with her death. Although each member of the Birling family and Gerald Croft have had contact with Eva Smith/Daisy Renton during the previous two years, none of them is aware of the others' involvement in the tragedy until the day of the inspector's visit. He makes them aware of the part they have played in her tragic end. The characters each react differently to the news and to the degree of responsibility which they should bear. The first person to have contact with Eva was Mr Birling. He had employed her at his works until September 1910. At first when the inspector had asked him about Eva he couldn't remember her until the inspector showed him a photograph of her. ...read more.

Middle

Daisy was in love with Gerald and being thrown out by him left her not only homeless but heartbroken. Also she had been cared for by Gerald and enjoyed quite a luxurious lifestyle. She therefore had more to lose than previously. The drain on her emotions would have left her with less fighting spirit so her future looked even bleaker. During this rejection Eva behaves with dignity, and puts Gerald's feelings first. She doesn't create any scenes, plead with him or even cry she just goes quietly to make it easier for him. Gerald is least to blame as he cares for Daisy but on the other hand gives her a taste of a lifestyle she loves but cannot have. "She was young and pretty and warm hearted". Conversely he leaves her in a worse state than either Mr Birling or Sheila had. Gerald's comment that young women should be "protected against unpleasant and disturbing things" is rather hypocritical in the light of what he's done to Daisy. He feels lower class women do not need this protection, which would be a typical attitude of rich young men of that time. They would have no conscience about 'using' girls like Daisy. At First Gerald denies even knowing Eva. "Where did you get the idea I know her?" Gerald is concerned because he doesn't want this to be revealed as he might lose Sheila. "(distressed) Sorry - I - well, I've suddenly realizes - taken it in properly - that's she's dead." Gerald shows sympathy for Eva and is distressed once he finally takes it in that Eva is dead. ...read more.

Conclusion

In those days labour was plentiful and cheap and there were no employment laws to protect workers, so it was easy to dismiss someone instantly. Mrs Birling and Eric are the most to blame because Mrs Birling knew Eva was genuinely in need but still turned her away in a callous fashion. Eric had a sexual relationship with Eva and made her pregnant. He put her in an unbearable position and is very much to blame for her downfall. The only two things in his favour were that he was sorry for what he had done and he tried to help her financially but these came too late for Eva. Priestly wanted to ensure life after the war was better than before and he hoped that through his writing he could influence people's ideas and change society. Although he wrote an Inspector Calls in 1945 he deliberately set it in 1912 because that time represented the sort of society everybody wanted to leave behind. He was particularly concerned about the living conditions of the lower classes, represented by Eva, and the way the upper classes behaved, represented by the Birling's and Gerald Croft. He believed that we should all help each other which is the total opposite from what the Birling's believed. He uses the inspector to symbolise the conscience of the nation and through him challenges each of the characters who represent a part of society. He shows that change is more likely to come through the young (Sheila and Eric) rather than through the older generation (Mr and Mrs Birling) or the upper classes symbolised by Gerald Croft. This shows Priestly believes there is still hope for coming generations. Jateen Vithlani 1 ...read more.

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