But through out the play, turning from ignorance to knowledge they start to find out many secrets about each other’s past. The play starts in the family dining room celebrating the engagement between Sheila and Gerald. Gerald is also at the celebration; he is the son of one of Mr Birling’s rivals. They are all talking at first about the economic situation of England, Mr Birling mentions a new ship called the titanic which sails the following week ‘The titanic – forty six thousand eight hundred tons – New York in five days – and unsinkable’ in a way that quote symbolises the play.
A family with everything going for them, full of confidence thinking nothing could bring them down. Then everything goes wrong so quickly. Mr Birling also quotes ‘… in 1940… by that time you’ll be living in a world that would have forgotten all these capital versus labour agitations and these silly little war scares’. But in 1940 the Second World War was in action and there is still capital versus labour battles. The family has finished their dinner and is now drinking port. There is a knock at the door, and the maid goes to answer it. The inspector enters. His name is inspector Goole.
The reactions of the family from the entrance of the inspector are not strong, at the moment they don’t think they have done anything wrong. Mr Birling thinks the inspector is asking him for permission for a warrant, ‘I’m still on the Bench. It may be something about a warrant. ‘ He even tells the inspector how he’s been Lord Mayor for two years and asks the inspector ‘Well what can I do for you? Some trouble about a warrant. ‘ The inspector then informs Birling, Gerald and Eric that a young Woman had committed suicide. She had swallowed a lot of strong disinfectant and had burnt her insides out.
But Mr Birling does not seem at all moved by this. He impatiently replies to this announcement by asking the inspector why he has come to their house. The inspector does not answer and carries on with what he was saying. The inspector says the woman had kept a diary and that she used different name but the first name was ‘Eva Smith’ He then starts to ask questions to the family about her death. Mr Birling is the first one on the inspector’s list to be questioned. Mr Birling had sacked Eva Smith from his factory because she had asked for more money. Because of this, Eva Smith became unemployed and had to work somewhere else.
Mr Birling said she was a good worker and he was upset to let her go, but seemed unmoved by the fact that she committed suicide. He felt that if he had given her a raise everybody would have wanted one. The Inspector then decides to question Sheila. Sheila is the most moved from the experience out of the whole family. She tells the inspector that she was intimidated by Eva Smith’s good looks. Eva Smith had managed to find herself a new job at a clothes shop called ‘Milwards’. Sheila had gone in to buy a hat, unfortunately the hat did not look right on her, Sheila feeling embarrassed caught Eva Smith ‘laughing’ at her.
Sheila refused to go in again unless Eva was sacked. This left Eva Smith unemployed again. Sheila felt nothing of what she had done, she did not think of the consequences. Once She discovered that Eva Smith had committed suicide she felt truly guilty for what she had done. Eva Smith changed her name to Daisy Renton and had to become a prostitute to get money. This is where Gerald meets her. Gerald protected her from a slimy man trying to seduce her. Gerald realising she had no money took her to a house that he was looking after and let her stay in it.
He ended up having an affair with Eva Smith. Finding that the affair was going to far he had to tell her to leave. He offered her money and felt very guilty about the whole thing and found it hard to come over the terms that she was dead. Eva Smith then went back to prostitution and met Eric, in the play the audience or the family doesn’t know about Eric meeting Eva Smith, His mum has only just found out about him drinking a lot. The inspector skips Eric and starts to question Mrs Birling. Mrs Birling says she met Eva Smith when she came to her charity organisation for help.
Eva Smith said she was pregnant, had money troubles and introduced her name as Mrs Birling. This caused a prejudiced decision from Mrs Birling. She refused to help Eva Smith saying that the husband should help pay her. This harsh decision was the final straw for Eva Smith, causing her to kill herself. Mrs Birling did not feel guilty at all for her decision even after having learnt about the suicide. She felt her decision was justified and that all the blame should be passed on to the Father. Unfortunately for Mrs Birling the father was Eric. Eric had met her when he had had quit a bit to drink.
He threatened to make a fuss if he wasn’t aloud in her room. Much later he was to discover that he was the father of her unborn baby. He offered to marry her but she refused saying that he didn’t love her. He then offered her money but she refused, suspecting it to be stolen. She then went to Mrs Birling for help. Each person in the family had something to do with the suicide. Mr Birling started it off by firing her from the factory. Sheila made her lose her job out of jealousy. Gerald used her and told her to leave when it suited him. Eric got her pregnant but couldn’t support her properly.
Mrs Birling refused to give her help. All of them did something but they can’t forget that Eva Smith has her own mind, and must help herself. In such a conservative time you couldn’t depend on everybody to help you. Mr Birling although starting it off, I think was least responsible. Although he fired Eva Smith, he did have a reason. If you wanted to get a rise and threatened a strike then there is a high risk of getting fired. I think although Sheila also got Eva Smith fired from Milwards, Eva could have looked somewhere else for a job, and not depended on Gerald so much.
I also think Gerald did what he could. Eva Smith could have looked for a job while leaving in the apartment that Gerald was looking after, she even mentioned that she knew she was going to get thrown out soon. Eric I think was most responsible for Eva Smith’s death, although offering marriage and money, it was his fault for her getting pregnant. Mrs Birling although refused to give Eva Smith money, did not really know the position Eva was in. At the end of the play the family discover the inspector is not an official police inspector. I think that whoever the Inspector is, he is a strong socialist.
He says ‘One Eva Smith has gone – but there are millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths… their lives all inter wined with our lives… we are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. ‘ This totally contradicts with what the conservative Mr Birling says near the beginning of the play ‘… the way these cranks talk, you’d think everybody has to look after everybody else… a man has to mind his own business and look after himself. ‘ So although I couldn’t say who I thought the inspector was exactly I would guess a political agitator, to make this wealthy family think of their consequences.