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Who, in your opinion, is most responsible for the death of Eva Smith?

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Introduction

Who, in your opinion, is most responsible for the death of Eva Smith? In this essay I will explain the details of who I believe is the most to blame for the death of Eva Smith. I will aim to describe why each of the characters of the play is to blame for her death as well as describing the class situation and structure of the time, as well as why the events detailed in this play were allowed to happen. Overview An Inspector Calls by J.B Priestly was first performed in 1945. The play was set in 1912 before the war; it centres around the wealthy Birling family. A visit from the mysterious Inspector Goole proves to be a horrifying experience for the Birling's as they learn that they have all played a part in the suicide of a young girl called Eva Smith. Priestly's main aim was to encourage people to take responsibility for their actions, not to shift the blame on to others. Priestly attempts to convey his attitudes and ideas through the characters in the play. He uses the inspector to voice his own opinions. The Birling's are used to show how not to behave. He established each of his characters in the play the way he thought people were. The Birling's were very worried about appearances. The way they dressed and how their house was decorated. Their house had 'good solid furniture of the period'. `The general effect is substantial and heavily comfortable but not cosy and homelike'. The lighting is pink and intimate before the Inspector arrives; they are hiding behind a wall of 'stupid pretences'. It become brighter and harder when the Inspector enters, this is them being opened up to the world. At the beginning of Act 1 the Birling's are enjoying a meal. The dialogue reveals that the family does not care about anyone but themselves. ...read more.

Middle

Arthur Birling's part in the plot of this play is not as substantial as is required of a character to say that they are responsible for the death of Eva Smith. I would be true to say that Arthur Birling's actions in 'releasing' Eva from his works may have forced her into prostitution and may have contributed to the events that followed, but I cannot draw a conclusion that Mr. Birling is directly responsible for the girl's death. The second character to be questioned by Inspector Goole was Arthur Birling's daughter Sheila. Sheila is then told by the inspector that after being dismissed from her father's works, Eva Smith then found employment in a department shop called Milwards, which just so happens to be a shop at which the Birling's have an account with. After a bit more explanation from the Inspector, Sheila realises that Eva Smith was the girl that she had sacked from Milwards because Sheila believed Eva to be mocking her when she had tried on a dress and it did not suit her, however Eva held the dress up to herself and it 'just suited her'. Sheila Birling, Arthur's daughter, has a very different set of characteristics. Upon recognising the photograph she immediately runs out the room, as if in disgust of her previous actions, a complete contradiction to her father's views. She later returns, guiltily, saying, "You knew it was me all along didn't you?" Immediately her character is shown to be sympathetic because of this guilt. Sheila goes on to explain how she was entirely responsible for Eva Smith loosing her job at Milwards, by saying, "I went to the manager at Milwards and I told him that if they didn't get rid of that girl I'd never go near the place again and I'd persuade mother to close our account with them". This shows that Sheila, like her father, abused her position as a wealthy member of the community, who could influence others due to her relations. ...read more.

Conclusion

You refused her even the pitiable little bit of organised charity you had in your power to grant her", and "Eric, You just used her for the end of a stupid, drunken evening, as if she was an animal, a thing, not a person". With each confrontation, the intent was to inflict guilt. The inspector then leaves and the family are left feeling great guilt. Using Gerald Croft as the 'dramatic device', J B Priestley then shows that Inspector Goole does not exist. The reactions of the family then change to that of relief for Mr and Mrs Birling, whilst Gerald, Eric and Sheila still feel guilty and regret what they have done. It seems that the elder generation are unmoved by the experience, while Sheila and Eric are completely at odds with their parents. Eric then says, "I agree with Sheila. It frightens me too. It's still the same rotten story whether it's been told to a police inspector or not". The phone then rings with news that an inspector is being sent over in connection with the death of a young woman and the scenario starts again. Mr and Mrs Birling seem more concerned about their reputation than with the death, while Eric, Sheila and Gerald are still in shock. In conclusion it would be unfair to blame a single person, as each character contributed to the death of Eva Smith. It may be more wise to blame society and they way in which they lived, as it is Eva Smith's class and time that set her apart, no real crime has been committed (in my opinion) and it is more a case if social conscience, consequently a moral responsibility should be shared by the family and their future actions affected to help others and not just themselves. The play is not so much about the Birling family themselves, but about society in general, this is shrewdly written by J B Priestley as he manipulates the effect of using characters within the play to get his message across. ...read more.

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