• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Who is most responsible for the death of Eva Smith?

Extracts from this document...


Amy Grammer Who is most responsible for the death of Eva Smith? In my essay it will be necessary to look at how each character can be held to blame, the kind of crime committed, the girl herself and, most importantly, why Priestley wants us to think about who is responsible. To answer the question now, I will say briefly, that you cannot exonerate any character, however contrite they may be. I also don't think you can hold any character more responsible than another because I believe that it is the sum of each persons actions which presents the insurmountable obstacles from which there is no way out other that suicide. I don't think Priestley meant for us to hold individuals to different degrees of responsibility but rather hold society collectively responsible. To understand what is happening in the play we firstly have to understand what was happening in 1912. During the Industrial Revolution there were technical and industrial advances, which gave more power to the industrialists. This was taken from the landowners that had previously wielded power through agriculture. Society was much changed. Because of the new power of industrialism, people flocked form the countryside to the cities, creating the new urban working class of which Eva Smith was a member. Their workplaces were notorious for poor safety, inhumane working conditions and low wages. Capitalism was prevalent among the middle and upper classes. Capitalism is the theory of private ownership. The government, allowing owners of businesses, such as Birling's, to make huge profits, adopted a policy of Laissez-faire. ...read more.


Tim Bezant in the introduction of An Inspector calls has some ideas, a few of which I shall now use. In medieval times moral plays would centre on the seven deadly sins, pride, gluttony/greed, envy, lust, covetousness, anger and sloth. Birling's sin is greed. He wants money and power and doesn't seem to mind who he hurts to get it. In Priestley's eyes there is something very wrong with this. It shows no willing to work as a community, which he believes in strongly. Birling is a main victim of the Inspectors wrath. He talks to him "savagely" in his final speech and tells him "he started it", meaning the path to doom. The Inspector holds Birling responsible and his anger with him is heightened by his lack of remorse. Eva Smith seems to recover from this setback when she secures herself a job at Milwards, an upper-class department store. It is not long before another member of the Birling family, Sheila, loses her the job there. Sheila is angry that Eva looked better in a dress than she did so tells her boss that unless Eva is sacked Milwards will lose her family's business. The shop can't afford to lose their business so they sack Eva, admitting her only crime was being too pretty. Sheila displays the maturity of a five-year-old child in her unwarranted attack on Eva. Her sin is envy, and also anger. She acts in a fit of rage, not thinking about what she is doing, unlike Birling. However her reaction to being shown the picture of Eva is quite different from Birling's evasive attitude. She runs out of the room with a scream. ...read more.


The actions of the characters knit together with the issues Priestley wants us to address; community being more important than the individual, misuse of power and that the class system of 1912 was wrong. The pre-war characters examine their consciences with a warning of, "the time will soon come, when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish". This will be very relevant to the generation that has been through two world wars. Priestley never meant for us to examine the degrees of responsibility each character must bear but instead blame society as a whole. It must be realised that we are responsible for each other and we are all to blame, equally, if another is to kill herself. He wants to demonstrate that everyone is responsible for everyone else in society, regardless of the factors that make us selfish as individuals. He sought to teach the audiences the same lesson the characters learn. They are lucky only to witness it rather that experience it. In this essay I have shown that it is impossible to quantify responsibility so it is therefore impossible for us to hold one character more responsible for the death of Eva smith than another. I have also shown how Priestley never meant us to hold each individual responsible but rather society as a whole. This play is relevant to a modern audience because it makes us examine our consciences in the way the Birling are forced to do. Are we no better than the Birlings? It is still important for us to understand that our actions have consequences and we are all responsible for each other. As the poet John Donne once said, "No man is an island" (Meditation XVII). ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE J.B. Priestley section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE J.B. Priestley essays

  1. To what extent is each character responsible for Eva's death?To what extent does each ...

    "You're beginning to pretend nothing happened at all." (Page 64) Eric had matured and is trying to take his responsibilities more seriously and maturely. Sheila Birling, Eric's sister is responsible for Eva's death but not as much as Eric, most of Sheila's actions come from her parents who could not face the fact that they were responsible for

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

    When he broke off his relationship with Eva Smith, Gerald hurt her badly but the language he uses suggests that he hadn't raised her expectations beforehand so that at least is a good thing. Gerald seems very upset by the reliving of the story and even says he just realised that she's dead.

  1. Who is most responsible for the death of Eva Smith?

    shows no regret for dismissing Eva, despite knowing that if he had not then she may still have been alive. He merely stated that, 'If you don't come down sharply on some of these people they will soon be asking for the earth'.

  2. An Inspector Calls by J.B Priestley - To what extent is each character responsible ...

    Gerald, unlike Sheila and Eric, does not move on, accept the truth and learn from it. Gerald is still going to be part of the wealthy capitalist society and going to carry on and think that he is not part of the one community.

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

    however, Arthur Birling felt justified in sacking the 'ring-leaders' of the strike, including Eva Smith. Arthur Birling is shown to be one of the unchanging characters throughout the play as he, at no point, takes responsibility for having a part in Eva Smith's death.

  2. Who is most responsible for Eva Smith's death? How does Priestley use her death ...

    Mr. Birling is also discomforted by the way he is being challenged by the inspector and is especially bitter when he suggests to Mr. Birling that he is using girls for cheap labour and getting his profit from this exploitation. To Arthur Birling, as to others of his kind, workers were

  1. Who (or what) do you think is to blame for the death of Eva ...

    "All last summer, when you never came near me, and I wondered what happened to you." Throughout the play Sheila knew that Gerald wasn't telling the truth. She was the ideal daughter but in the end when everything was revealed she, no longer sees the importance of behaving according to the rules in society.

  2. Who is most responsible for the death of Eva Smith?

    This is because his socialist attitude does not agree at all to money suggesting he is working class with little money. As he has no money he may want it and is socialist to try and get it. The Inspector does a very good job of intimidating the Birlings and Mr.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work