Inspector Calls Essay – To what extent is each character responsible for the death of Eva Smith?
Each character is linked to Eva Smith in some way. The Birling family, Arthur, Mrs B, Sheila and Eric all contributed to her death along with Gerald, Sheila’s partner. In this essay I’ll be exploring how each of them contributed to her death and to what extent it is their responsibility.
The first person involved with Eva Smith was Arthur Birling. She was one of his employees who was a ‘ring leader’ of the strikes for higher wages. She was fired for being one of the girls to start the trouble. This was the first link in the chain of events that lead to Eva’s suicide so you could argue that Arthur was the most responsible. However, I would say that she managed to get back on her feet at many other points after being fired by Arthur, but other characters knocked her down again. For example, she managed to find another job at Milwards and probably would have been fine if it wasn’t for Sheila getting her fired again.
The next person to affect Eva Smith was Sheila. She never knew her personally; Eva worked at Milwards where Sheila often shopped. Eva had gotten her a dress she had requested at Milwards and was present while she tried it on. She ‘caught sight of this girl smiling – as if to say: doesn’t she look awful’. Sheila was furious with Eva, but admitted to the Inspector it was mostly jealousy as she was such a pretty girl. Although Sheila got her fired from her last stable job I don’t think she is the most to blame, however she does hold a large part of the responsibility.
Gerald was the next person to affect Eva Smith, although you could argue he helped her and actually made her life better. Gerald met Eva at the Palace Bar where she was working as a prostitute, and after a few days developed an affair with her. Gerald came to learn Eva was extremely poor so he let her live in a set of rooms for free, and gave her money to support her. When Gerald had to move her out of the rooms they left on good terms, Eva had said ‘she’d been happier than she’d ever been before’ and ‘there’d never be anything as good again for her’. I don’t think Gerald was very responsible
for Eva’s death. Although he could have helped her further rather than leaving her he did a lot for her, much more than anyone else.
Eric also affected Eva. He met her at the Palace Bar, similar to Gerald but he was ‘a bit squiffy’. He went back to Eva’s lodgings and raped her. Eric affected Eva badly, she became pregnant after they had met several times but she did not want to marry him so he supported her with money. Once Eva found out the money Eric was giving her was stolen, she wanted nothing more to do with him, and never saw him again. Eric was fairly responsible for the death of Eva, he made her life even worse by making her pregnant and then giving her stolen money. He had a big part to play in her death.
Mrs B was the last person to come in contact with Eva out of all the characters. Mrs B was a prominent member of the Brumley Women’s Charity, where Eva Smith went 2 weeks before she died. She gave a false name and a false story the first time she appealed for help, before telling them the truth. However, given she had already lied Mrs B did not see any reason to believe her and turned her away. At the time, she knew nothing about Eva or what she had previously been through but I would say that she was most responsible for Eva’s death.
Each character had a part to play in Eva Smith’s death, Gerald barely did anything, Sheila and Arthur Birling were similarly to blame – they both got her fired from her jobs. Eric got her pregnant and left her with nothing as he was stealing money, but Mrs B was the last person to turn her away. She had been mistreated by everyone she knew and was left with no options after she left Eric; the charity was her last chance. Perhaps if Mrs B had helped her she wouldn’t have died, so I would say Mrs B is by far the most to blame.