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In J.B Priestley's "An Inspector Calls", Who Is Responsible For The Death Of Eva Smith?

1721 words - 7 pages

'An Inspector Calls' is a touching and moralistic play written by J.B. Preistley. The play is set in pre-First World War England and describes the part each member of the Birling family plays in the eventual suicide of the character we do not see, Eva Smith.I believe that each character played an important part in the death and downfall of Eva Smith and although some of the 'crimes' committed against her may be perceived as being worse than the others, they are all equally important in the chain of events leading to her suicide.Not all of the crimes committed in the play are actual punishable crimes, e.g. when Mr Birling sacks Eva he is not actually guilty of any criminal offence. This is known as a moral crime and is only reprimanded through conscience and guilt. The name of the character that does not appear becomes significant when referring to these crimes. Eva comes from the root word Eve, who is commonly known as the first woman and Smith is a particularly common name in Britain, especially England. Together this suggests that the author, J.B. Priestley, is not referring to just one woman but to every and all women. This is possibly to suggest the likelihood of these moral crimes being committed again against other women in other circumstances and the ease with which this series of events could be repeated.The first of the characters to face an intimidating questioning from the Inspector was Mr Arthur Birling, a particularly pompous middle-class man. Mr Birling had sacked Eva when she had asked for more money for working in his factory, two years ago. Eva and a group of other workers had gone on strike for several weeks and when they had eventually been driven to literal starvation and had to go back to work Eva had been discharged following claims that she was one of the ring-leaders within the revolt.Mr Birling dismisses claims of responsibility by saying that;"If we were all responsible for everything that happened to everybody we'd had anything to do with, it would be very awkward". It was in fact her dismissal from her post which led to her original poverty forcing her down more dark and treacherous roads.The daughter of Arthur Birling, Sheila, was next to receive a close examination from Inspector Goole. Sheila was a pretty, well-mannered, compassionate young girl, engaged to the son of a wealthy businessman, Gerald Croft.Sheila had first encountered Eva at Milwards an up-market store, frequented by the Birling family. Sheila had been in the store trying on a dress, whilst in a particularly bad mood. The dress hadn't suited Sheila, but had suited Eva. This had infuriated Sheila and Eva had subsequently been sacked after a complaint and threat of the withdrawal the Birling business from the store. The job in Milwards had been a lucky break for Eva and as the last steady job she had had, Sheila had practically made certain that Eva would be made not only unemployed but homeless, without full knowledge of the consequences of her actions....

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