Who Was Most to Blame For the Death of Eva Smith?
An Inspector Calls is a three-act drama, which takes place on a single night in 1912, and focuses on the Birling family, who live in a wealthy but not particulary homely house in Brumley. The story begins when the mysterious Inspector Goole calls unexpectedly on the prosperous Birling family. The idea of the play, and particularly the role of the inspector, is to try to bring the Birling family to understand that they have a moral responsibility for the death of Eva Smith, if not a legal one. In Act Three, the Inspector tells the Birling family: “The girl killed herself and died a horrible death. But each of you helped to kill her. Remember that. Never forget it.” But who was really the most to blame for her death? I believe that they all had their own part to play in her death but am not entirely sure if anyone has more blame than another. So in turn I will go through each of the characters and study their role in the death and hopefully come to some conclusion as to who is the most to blame.
Firstly we come to Mr Birling, the head of the family. He feels that he has to prove himself to others and does this by showing off. For example boasting to Gerald about how it’s been hinted to him that he will be knighted: “… there’s a fair chance that I might find my way into the next Honours List. Just a knighthood, of course.” A wealthy man who has worked his way up the social ladder and describes himself as a: “hard-headed business man” and thinks that he is a perfect role model for his children. He doesn’t realise that being away from his wife and children, because of work, has a negative effect on his family relationships. He had Eva Smith working for him in his factory and as she was a good worker she was about to be promoted. However she was dismissed when she came back from her holidays with the other workers because she was the ringleader of a group of workers who went on strike for wanting higher wages. Mr Birling refused and explains why by saying: “Well, it’s my duty to keep labour costs down, and if I’d agreed to this demand for a new rate we’d have added about twelve percent to our labour costs.” This shows that he cares more about his business than about the welfare of his workers as the money might have done them good. And when he finds out about Eric he is only worried about what it will do to the family’s reputation saying: “… you don’t realise yet all you’ve done. Most of this is bound to come out. There’ll be a public scandal.” He could have had a big part in the death of Eva Smith because by dismissing her, he set the whole thing off and it’s possible that everything else that happened, leading up to her death, might not have happened in the same way or at all. However this was only one issue when she wasn’t particulary vulnerable and may not have affected her at all because at that time people were often coming and going from jobs, and just had to get on and seek further employment.
Secondly is Sheila, Mr and Mrs Birling's daughter, who is engaged to Gerald. She is a young woman who is aware of class and her position but she isn’t hugely fussed about others social status’s. She understands her actions and their consequences. However it appears that, especially when angry, she can become petty and jealous. Her connection with Eva Smith was after she was working for Mr Birling and had a job a Milwards. Sheila and her mother are both regular customers there and Sheila had gone to try something on. Both her mother and the shop assistant had been against it but she insisted. She says: “As soon as I tried it on, I knew they’d been right. It just didn’t suit me at all.” She goes on to say that when the assistant asked her something about the dress and she answered and she held the dress up, as if she was wearing it, to show them what she meant. When she did this Sheila realised that the dress would have suited her very well which spark her annoyance but is...
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