The Diary of Eva Smith

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Eva's letter
The Inspector tells Mr. Birling that Eva Smith/Daisy Renton “left a letter…and a sort of diary”. The letter could be to her nearest relative or to Gerald Croft. Write - as you imagine Eva would have done - the letter and diary entries (between 1910 and 1912) for the key events in her life, from her starting to work for Birling & Co. to her suicide.

Year and monthWhat happens
September 1910Eva sacked by Birling & Co.
December 1910Eva employed by Milwards.
Late January 1911Eva sacked by Milwards.
March 1911Eva becomes Gerald's mistress.
Early September 1911Gerald breaks off the affair.
Eva leaves Brumley for two months.
November 1911Eric meets Eva.
December 1911/January 1912Eva finds she is pregnant.
Late March 1912Mrs. Birling turns down Eva's application for help. Early April 1912Eva's suicide/the Inspector calls*
(*Dated by Titanic's maiden voyage.) The diary is also mentioned on pages 179 and 193 (Penguin edition).

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Eva's life - the media version
Suppose that Eva's diary is discovered by a journalist who decides to present an item on her suicide for a Brumley newspaper, or for a local radio or TV broadcast (this is strictly anachronistic but could be done as a modern retrospective account). In a newspaper this could be a single report, or a series over several days (as comments are made by the Birlings, Gerald Croft and their solicitors). A broadcast account would perhaps take longer to prepare - but might still be inaccurate.

Remember that not all of the people involved would tell the truth (or the whole truth) about what happened. Try to obtain interviews/comments from some of the characters in the play and others, such as:

Eva's work-mates at Birling & Co. or Milwards;
the “woman” who wanted Eva to go to the Palace bar (clearly a kind of agent for Brumley's prostitutes), neighbours in her lodgings, and so on.
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Who is to blame?
Who is to blame for Eva's death? Consider how each of the Birlings and Gerald Croft influences what happens to Eva - what part does each play in the chain of events leading to her death?

Give an account of this chain of events in the order in which each event occurs (see dates above).

Say how far each character is at fault for what he or she has done to Eva. Then judge how far each is right or wrong in his or her attitude now to what was done - admitting or denying guilt. In conclusion, try to assess how responsible, and how ready to admit responsibility, each of the five is. Is there any connection between the age of each character and his or her readiness to accept blame? Back to top

The most important theme of the play, it could be argued, is responsibility.

See how often the words “responsible” and “responsibility” appear, and in what senses. At the beginning of the play Mr. Birling gives his (limited) view of responsibility in a long speech. Mr. Birling's definition of responsibility is immediately followed by the arrival of the Inspector. The Inspector gives his (very wide) explanation of responsibility immediately before he leaves.

Comment on these speeches and compare them.
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Consider how Mr. Birling's comments reveal his views:

How do Mr. Birling's earlier comments on the unlikelihood of war, the probable success of capitalists in eliminating strikes and on the unsinkability of the Titanic affect our view of what he says on responsibility? (The play's audience, in 1946, would be aware of two world wars, the General Strike and the sinking of the Titanic). Is Mr. Birling a “hard-headed” businessman, as he claims, or a “hard-hearted” character? Back to top

In 1912 there was no welfare state in Britain. Poor people often depended on charity. But wealthy people, such as Mrs. Birling, in the play, usually controlled the charity.

Does Mrs. Birling, in her work for the Brumley Women's Charity Organisation act out of a sense of responsibility or a desire to be seen to be...
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