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  An inspector calls

An Inspector Calls J.B Priestley    The Author: J.B. Priestley was born in 1894 in Bradford as son of a schoolmaster. He went to university in Cambridge. Priestley has been writing essays, criticism, novels and plays.

He worked as a journalist and broadcaster. He has directed and acted in his own plays as well. J.B. Priestley died in 1984     The Characters:   Arthur Birling: A heavy-looking, rather portentous man in his middle fifties with fairly easy manners but rather provincial in his speech. He is a prosperous manufacturer.

“A hard-headed, practical man of business“. Optimistic he believes in man and in the world developing fast. He is very self-confident. “We don’t guess – we know.“ He believes in his assessments. Mr.

Birling thinks that a man has to mind his own business and look only after himself.   Sybil Birling: Arthur’s wife. She is a quite cold woman and her husband’s social superior.   Sheila Birling: The daughter. She is a pretty girl in her early twenties and very pleased with life and exited.   Eric Birling: The son of the family.

He is in his early twenties, half shy and half assertive. He often drinks too much.   Gerald Croft: Gerald is an attractive man about thirty. He is engaged to marry Sheila. Treated like a member of the family.   Inspector Goole: The Inspector is about fifty years old.

He looks hard at the person he addresses before actually speaking. He behaves in a quite extraordinary way. “I said to myself: Well, we’ll try to understand why it had to happen.“   The Setting: The story takes place in the dining-room of the Birlings‘ house in Brumley. It’s an evening in spring 1912. The house is a fairly large suburban house.

    The Story: The four Birlings and Gerald are seated at the dinning table. They had a good dinner because they are celebrating a special occasion, that Sheila and Gerald engaged, and are pleased with themselves. It’s one of the happiest days in Mr. Birlings life because the engagement means a lot to him. Gerald is the son-in-law he always wanted because his father and he have been friendly rivals in business and he now looks forward to working together with the firm of his dad. They are sitting together drinking wine when Gerald presents a ring to Sheila.

Then Arthur delivers a speech talking about their country having passed the worst times and them looking forward to increased prosperity. He promises the young couple a life without problems. When he and Gerald are by themselves, Mr. Birling tells his son-in-law that he might find his way into the next Honours List which is very important for Mr. Birling and which he is very proud of. Suddenly the door bell rings.

Edna, the house-maid, gets to answer it. At the door is an Inspector, whose name is Goole, who claims that he has some important questions. He wants some information about a young woman that committed suicide by swallowing a lot of strong disinfectant and died two hours ago in the Infirmary. Her name was Eva Smith. The Inspector visited her room and found a diary she kept and a letter she left. As a consequence he knows that the woman was employed in Arthur Birling‘s works at one time which Mr.

Birling confesses after the Inspector showed him a picture of the girl. Eva was one of the leaders of a strike asking for decent wages in Birlings shops so she had to go. After he enquired Mr. Birling Inspector Goole insists on talking to the other members of the family as well. Inspector Goole tells Sheila that Eva Smith after being out of work for the next two month found a new job at a shop in town. Which was quite a luck for her because her parents were dead and she didn’t have any other relatives that could support her.

But she was fired after a couple of months because a customer complained about her. When Goole shows Sheila the photo she realises that she has been the customer. According to the Inspector it was the last steady job Eva had. Sheila had complained about her because she was in a bad temper and because she had been jealous. Eva only had to leave the shop because Sheila was annoyed with herself. After that unfortunate event Eva changed her name to Daisy Renton, a name that Gerald recognises because he has been seeing a girl with that name the spring and summer before.

This fact leads to a quarrel between Sheila and Gerald who are both very tightened. Sheila wants to share her guilt because she feels responsible for the woman’s death. At that point Sheila understands what the Inspector is up to. She repeatedly tries to warn Gerald: “We all started like that – so confident, so pleased with ourselves until he began asking us questions.” Gerald asked by the Inspector tells the story he has to tell about the young woman. Gerald met Daisy at a bar and helped the girl to get out of it.




Because he finds out that she has no money he makes her move to the house of a friend who is in Canada. She became his mistress. He thinks that this was inevitable because she was grateful for him helping her and because he became the centre of her life. After ending the affair when it suited him Gerald never saw her again. Eva left Brumley after that. Sheila gives Gerald back his ring because she needs time to think about what she heard and Gerald leaves to cool off.

Sybil Birling is a member of the Woman’s Charity Organisation, to which women in distress can appeal for help in various forms. There was a meeting of that organisation two weeks before. The inspector goes on telling that Eva appealed for help. At first Eva told a lie as a consequence Mrs. Birling was prejudiced against the case. Because of her influence she didn’t get the help.

Then the woman told her the real story that she was going to get a child and that the father of her child was very young, silly, wild and always drunk so she couldn’t marry him. Eva was supported by the youngster until she found out that he had stolen the money he was giving to her. As a consequence she refused to take the money any more. Mrs. Birling tells her to look for the father because he is responsible for the child. Sybil Birling is sure that if the girl’s death is due to anybody, it is due to the father of the child.

But they realise that Eric is mixed up in the whole story as well. When Eric enters the room he tells the family and the Inspector that he met the girl at a bar and began an affair with her because he was drunk. When he got to know that she was pregnant he insisted on supporting her. Because he hadn’t enough money he stole it from his father’s firm. He gave the money to her until she refused to take it anymore.   They all end up in blaming each other for the girl’s death.

The Inspector resumes that each of them helped to kill her and that they can’t do this girl any good but that there are others whom they can help because we are connected to many other people. Then Inspector Goole leaves the confused family. Not all of them realise what they have done. Mr. And Mrs. Birling haven’t learned anything.

When Gerald comes back he tells them that he has found out that Goole was no police officer. Arthur Birling wants to be completely sure, so he calls the Chief Constable and finds out that there is definitely no such Inspector. After a discussion they find out that it could as well have been a hoax and that the Inspector could have wanted to bluff them into believing that they are mixed up with Eva Smith’s death. They ring up the Infirmary and find out that no girl has died that day. But the telephone rings little later with the police telling them that a girl just died on her way to the Infirmary and that an Inspector is coming to ask some questions.     My Opinion: I really liked the story because it’s very exciting and has a very surprising end.

The moral of the play is that every man is his brother’s keeper and not as Mr. Birling claims on his own. I think it’s very fascinating that every member of the family contributed to Eva Smith’s suicide. All the little faults led to a tragedy every single member of the family could have prevented.

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