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Who is Responsible for the Death of a Working Class Girl?

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Who is Responsible for the Death of a Working Class Girl? The suicide of a working class girl, Eva Smith, under suspicious circumstances, brings to light the involvement of each character and the extent of their influence over the life of Eva Smith. In the play 'An Inspector Calls' the Birling family and Gerald Croft are interrogated by an inspector who reveals that they all abuse their power and position in upper class Edwardian society. At the start of the play the family are having dinner, celebrating the engagement of Sheila and Gerald. The mood is easy and there is much gaiety for the family, until a police inspector arrives. He soon reveals seedy details from their past with his aggressive interrogation, and in a short space of time tears the family apart. J.B. Priestley wrote the play in 1945, but it is actually set in 1912. Priestley was a socialist and often used his plays to voice his opinions and educate his audience as to his way of thinking. He uses the play 'An Inspector Calls' to try to teach his audience about the responsibility we have for one another within the community we live in. The Birling family is a (reasonably wealthy) stereotypical middle class Edwardian family. They have a fairly high social status and with this comes responsibility, a point that is highlighted in the play. During the course of this essay I will be looking at how each character is involved in the life of Eva Smith; and ultimately who is responsible for her death. Mr Birling, who is head of the Birling family, is a hardened businessman in his mid fifties, He owns his own company (Birling and Company) ...read more.


If you do, then the inspector will just break it down. And it will be all worse when he does" (p.30). In a short space of time, Sheila's character has 'grown-up'. She can see that her family is wrong in their ways, and that they have committed terrible crimes against Eva Smith. Perhaps Sheila deserves more blame than her father because unlike him she did not have a valid reason for getting Eva dismissed from a job. Sheila accepts responsibility for what she has done and by doing this feels that she is the reason why Eva has died. Sheila dwells on this when she says, "So I'm really responsible? (p.23) Sheila also shares the inspector's view, that we are all responsible for one and other, and shows this when she condemns her parents for washing their hands of the responsibility. From being sacked at Millwards, Eva is left with nothing again; she is right back where she started. That is until she meets Gerald Croft (Sheila's fianc�) under the pseudonym of 'Daisy Renton' at The Palace Bar. He took her under his wing and put her up in a house left to him by a friend. It is here that Gerald leads a double life, seeing Eva all through the summer, but also at the same time maintaining a relationship with Sheila. Gerald, although unfaithful to Sheila, is not seen to be doing any wrong by Eva, as the inspector recognises when he says "Nor that young man Croft, though he at least had some affection for her and made her happy for a time" (p.56). Although Gerald is seen to have done well in all this, he could be guilty of building up Eva's hopes and then destroying them just as quickly. ...read more.


We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that 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 " (p.56). This is the Inspector's closing speech. Priestley uses him to voice his opinion to the audience and society as a whole at the end of the play. The speech sums up the whole feeling of the play and the intended message. Mr and Mrs Birling, with their old-fashioned ways and outdated values do not learn anything from the whole experience. Sheila and Eric however, do. The responsibility of the death of Eva Smith is shared between all of the characters, although in varying degrees. Eva Smith is ultimately responsible for her own death because she committed suicide, but the fact still remains that others who had an influence in her life eventually drove her to it. It is because of this, that I believe that Mrs Birling holds most of the responsibility. She was the last person Eva came to for help when she needed it most. She had the chance to help Eva but refused her appeal and therefore put the final nail in Eva's coffin. She shows no remorse for doing this to Eva and is not ashamed of her actions. Although it could be said that Mr Birling started the whole affair when he sacked her from her job, this does not make him responsible for her death. By the time Eva came to Mrs Birling, she had nothing and was also pregnant. Kevin Green 11/01/02 1 ...read more.

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