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Why Did Eva Smith Die?

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Why Did Eva Smith Die? "An Inspector Calls" is a play written by John Boynton Priestley in 1945, just after the end of World War II. Its first performance was in Moscow; its first British performance was in The New Theatre in 1946. The play is based around the suicide of a young girl called Eva Smith who committed suicide. The main characters are "Inspector Goole", "The Birlings" a well to do middle class family and "Gerald Croft" a business associate of Mr. Birling. In order to understand Priestley's examination of Eva's death, it is important to understand the historical context of the time the play was written and when it was set. In 1945 the world was changing socially, culturally and politically. People's opinions on certain issues, for example, abortion and women's rights, were just beginning to take shape into their modern form. The play is set in 1912, eleven years after Queen Victoria's death. Her death had preceded several years of weak rule by Edward VII. Edward's hedonistic lifestyle had been a role model for the British upper middle class. It had encouraged self-centeredness and a disregard for the struggles of the working class. The play is set in a fictive town, Brumley, similar to major towns in the midlands such as Birmingham. The years building up before World War I were very restless for many countries, especially Britain. ...read more.


This is supported when he says: "But the way some or these cranks talk and write now, you'd think everybody has to look after everybody else, as if we were all mixed together like bees in a hive" This attitude contributed to Eva's death because, had Mr. Birling cared at all about Eva, he might not have fired her and therefore the chain of events would never had happened. This quote also shows how he is in denial about the social changes taking place around him. Later in the play, the Inspector began to question Sheila. It is revealed that Sheila had something to do with Eva's death and that she feels guilty about it when she "gives a half-stifled sob and runs out". When Sheila returns, we find out that she had, earlier that year, complained to Eva's boss in a jealous rage when she thought she caught Eva laughing at her trying on a dress. She threatened to withdraw her family's account with Milwards the shop Eva was working in at the time. We learn that this has contributed to Eva's death because the Inspector explains that this was "the last real steady job she had", all because of Sheila's jealousy of this prettier, younger girl. Thus continuing the chain of events. We next discover the involvement of Gerald Croft in Eva's demise. After Sheila had confessed, the Inspector mentioned that Eva had changed her name to Daisy Renton; at hearing this Gerald immediately gave himself away by reacting in a startled way. ...read more.


in her demise, and how, to some degree, each of them carries some responsibility for the tragedy, even if they refuse to accept it. In conclusion, I believe that above all, the massive gap between working class and rich people was responsible for the tragic stories of people like Eva Smith. The rich people of the time gave no hint that they cared for the classes below, Mr. Birling and Mrs. Birling did not care that what they had done to Eva caused her suicide, they were much more concerned with retaining their wealth and social status. Sheila and Eric, on the other hand felt guilty about what they had done demonstrating that perhaps their generation had a better attitude. J.B Priestley cleverly used the "whodunnit" genre to explore social attitudes, class differences and their consequences for people like Eva Smith and The Birlings. The most telling statement in the whole play is when Inspector Goole says "One Eva Smith has gone - but there are millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still out there". This quote sums up J.B. Priestley's opinion that things like this happen everyday, but individuals cannot abrogate their responsibilities. The play addresses multiple issues of importance such as morality, social responsibility, highlighting the political and social changes in the 20th century. "Everything we said had happened, really had happened. If it didn't end tragically, then that's lucky for us. But it might have done". ?? ?? ?? ?? 04/05/2007 1 Simon Radford ...read more.

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