Responsibility an inspector calls

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The question of who is the most responsible for Eva Smith’s death is explored in JB Priestley’s play, An Inspector Calls. Set in the society of 1945, Priestley aims to highlight the flaws within it and the resulting consequences. The characters in the play serve as vehicles for this message. Eva Smith, although not a real person, symbolizes the entire working class community, making it pivotal for the characters to demonstrate their acceptance of responsibility for her suicide. In the subsequent paragraphs, I will analyze the involvement of each character in Eva Smith’s death and ultimately assign blame. Based on my assessment, I believe Gerald Croft bears the least responsibility for her demise.

Despite Mr Croft’s significant role in Eva Smith’s life, it is evident that she experienced great happiness during the time they were together. This is supported by the fact that when Mr Croft ended the affair, Eva responded with bravery and did not hold him responsible. From rescuing her from Alderman Meggarty’s aggressive advances at the Palace Bar to ending their relationship peacefully, Croft consistently displayed heroism. It can be argued that abruptly dropping her from a high to a low is more villainous than heroic, but evidence from the play suggests that Eva remained positive even after the affair. This can be attributed to the positivity Croft brought into her life during the summer months. Thus, I believe he bears the least responsibility for Eva’s suicide, given the joy he brought her during their affair. On the other hand, Sheila Birling had a more detrimental impact on Smith’s life. Having caused her dismissal from a department store job and subsequently hindering her efforts to rebuild her life, Miss Birling is accountable for her second downfall. Miss Birling even admits that she complained to the manager about Smith’s perceived impertinence and admits being somewhat jealous of Smith’s attractive appearance.

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Miss Birling is partly responsible for the suicide due to her shallow feelings of jealousy and spite. However, she also accepts responsibility and shows genuine remorse. On page 23, she acknowledges that it was her own fault and expresses feeling rotten about it. She even states that she will never repeat her actions. This suggests that she has learned from her mistake and reflects Priestley’s intention for the audience to learn as well. Despite her past bigotry towards Eva Smith, she admits that she would help her now if given the chance, demonstrating her good nature. Therefore, Miss Birling is ranked fourth in terms of responsibility for Miss Smith’s suicide. Mr. Birling is placed in the middle of the responsibility scale as he was the one who started the chain of events. However, his refusal to accept responsibility only further decreases his popularity with the audience.

Mr Birling is surprised by the Inspector’s scrutiny and is intolerant towards him. This leads to a sense of guilt and responsibility for Eva Smith’s suicide. He finds it ridiculous that Eva would ask for a raise and confidently states that he refused. His pompousness and refusal to admit responsibility contribute to his blame for Eva’s death. Had she not been fired, she would have had a stable income and avoided financial desperation.

One of the main triggers for Eva Smith’s decision to take the disinfectant and end her life was Mrs Birling’s refusal to provide assistance at the Women’s Charity Organisation when she desperately needed it. Two weeks prior, when Smith sought help, Mrs Birling admitted having prejudice against her case and denied any responsibility, claiming that Smith had brought it upon herself. The source of Mrs Birling’s prejudice was the fact that Smith had applied to the committee using the name ‘Mrs Birling’ without realizing she was actually standing in front of the ‘real’ Mrs Birling in Brumley. Despite Smith’s evident desperation, Mrs Birling callously denied her any service. On page 44, Mrs Birling is quoted saying, ‘She’d impertinently made use of our name, though she pretended afterwards that it just happened to be the first she thought of.’ Additionally, on page 43, she admits that this was one of the factors prejudicing her against Smith’s case. The arrogance, absurdity, and prejudiced dismissal of help displayed by Mrs Birling likely played a significant role in driving Eva Smith to take her own life, thereby holding Mrs Birling greatly accountable.

In conclusion, Eric Birling is ultimately the most responsible and therefore most to blame for Eva Smith’s death. The main reason for this is the pregnancy, which had a significant impact on Miss Smith’s mental state and ultimately drove her to suicide. While Eric does acknowledge his responsibility, this does not absolve him of blame. He first encountered Smith at the Palace Bar, where Gerald Croft also met her. However, their circumstances were very different. Instead of rescuing her from an aggressive drunken man like Gerald did, Eric played the role of the aggressor himself, admitting to threatening a scene. It is important to note that the Palace Bar is known as a popular gathering place for prostitutes. The fact that Eric accidentally encountered Smith there for a second time two weeks later raises questions about both characters, portraying Smith as desperate and Birling as irresponsible.

The text suggests that there was a love affair between the speaker and Miss Smith, but it was only a frivolous fling for him. He admits to using her for sex, describing her as attractive and agreeable. He also confesses to stealing £50 from his own father’s office and giving it to Miss Smith, unlike Gerald Croft who genuinely gave her his own money. This revelation portrays the speaker as insincere and scandalous compared to Croft. Despite the offer, Miss Smith refuses to accept the money out of moral principles, leaving her impoverished and alone. The speaker claims that Eric Birling is mainly responsible for Miss Smith’s suicide because he entered her life, brought a new person into it, and neglected to provide financial or emotional support.

In summary, Eric Birling is the most responsible for the suicide of Eva Smith. His impact on her life was more substantial than that of any other character. Although Mrs Birling may have triggered the suicide, her responsibility is not as great as her son’s. Gerald’s responsibility is minimal as he had a positive impact on Smith. Sheila Birling is less responsible than her father because she is more likeable and accepts her own responsibility. Ultimately, Eric bears the most blame.

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Responsibility an inspector calls. (2016, Jul 02). Retrieved from

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