An_Inspector_Calls_-_resources_files/Eva Smith timeline

An Inspector Calls
A play by J.B. Priestley
Timeline of Eva Smith
End of March.
Kills herself by
drinking strong
End of September
Changed her name to Daisy
2 months unemployed
Employed by
Birling. sacked
for asking for a
pay rise and
being the strike
Was asking for
25 shillings
instead of 22
and 6.
Worked at Milwards
and got sacked
because Sheila
Birling was irritable
and frustrated that
the dress did not
suit her.
Has a six month
relationship with
Gerald Croft.
After which, she
was given money
by him to see her
through until the
end of the year.
Meets Eric
Birling in
when she
takes care of
him; they then
Pregnant by Eric Birling
and seeks help from
Mrs Birling's Woman's
Charity Organisation.
Uses the name ‘Mrs
She had refused to
accept stolen money
from Eric.
Mrs Birling takes a
dislike to her and
prevents her from
receiving help
Eva Smith / Daisy Renton
• These are the two names by which the
girl who suffered at the hands of the
Birling family and Gerald was known.
• Mr birling sacked her from his factory
for leading a strike for better pay.
• She was sacked from a dress shop after
Sheila unjustly complained about her.
• She became Gerald Croft’s mistress.
• She was made pregnant by Gerald
• She applied to a charity for help, but
Mrs Birling refused that help.
• She committed suicide by swallowing
strong disinfectant.
• Mr Birling had a good opinion of Eva Smith. Being bred
in the country made her naïve, less wordly-wise than a
city girl: ‘a lively good-looking girl – country bred’ and
‘a good worker too’. As a good worker she had the
potential to become a ‘leading operator’.
• She had spoken up for the other girls who were on
strike and was showing leadership qualities against Mr
Birling. He did not like that – ‘She’d a lot to say – far
too much – so she had to go’.
• Sheila judged the girl by her appearance; she did not
consider the difficulties the girl may face in getting
another job: ‘ She was very pretty and looked as if she
could take care of herself’.
• She was forced to ‘try something else’ to make a living.
This meant meeting men in a place used by prostitutes.
Use your information to write a clear
and coherent answer about the
• The girl remains a mystery, she never appears on stage, we
do not know her real name (‘she used several names’
implies that ‘Eva Smith’ may also be a pseudonym).
However, play revolves around her which makes her a
leading character. We do know that she was pretty enough
for Mr Birling to remember her, for Sheila to become
jealous of her and to attract the attention of Gerald and
Eric. What we learn contrasts sharply with what we see of
the Birling family. She worked hard, supported her fellow
workers and was kind. Although she was reduced to
earning her living by picking up men from the Palace
Theatre bar, her honesty prevented her from considering
marriage to Eric and protected him from his folly in stealing
money. It could be said that she stands for all the people
we meet in our everyday lives, and J.B. Priestley uses her to
make us think about our responsibility towards others.
Inspector Goole
• He introduces himself as Inspector Goole, a
police officer who has come to investigate the
background to a young woman's suicide.
• He interrupts the Birling family gathering.
• He establishes that each character did
something unkind or cruel to the dead girl.
• He gradually takes control of the situation and,
while being polite, refuses to acknowledge that
any of the others is superior to himself.
• He leaves them after making an impassioned
speech about social injustice.
• The inspector is an imposing figure, a man of
‘massiveness, solidarity and purposefulness’, who
dominates the play to achieve his aims.
• He wants to do things his way: ‘One person and
one line of enquiry at a time. Otherwise there’s a
muddle’. This allows J. B. Priestley to build the
play as a chain of events.
• He takes his responsibility seriously and shows
the others that they haven’t done so: ‘It’s my
duty to ask questions’.
• ‘He never seemed like an ordinary police
inspector’: the word ‘ordinary’ could mean usual,
or it could mean that he was somehow
extraordinary – more than human.
How do the characters change?
• At the start of the play it could be said that
each character is wrapped up in their own life
and have little consideration for others
especially those who are not of the same
social class.
• By the end of the play there are some
significant changes. Who and how are the
characters changed? Try to find evidence to
support your theories.
Create a comparison chart
At the start of the play
• Mr Birling
• Mrs Birling
• Sheila
• Eric
• Gerald Croft
At the end of the play
• Mr Birling
• Mrs Birling
• Sheila
• Eric
• Gerald Croft
Find and add quotes that support your ideas
Mr Arthur Birling
At the start
Regards himself as reasonable and
pays the going rate to employees.
Unable to grasp link between
actions and consequences, or wider
social/world issues.
No concepts of value other than
money and position (Daughter’s
marriage as deal).
Proud of his status and is a social
climber (Daughter's marriage for
Sees him & wife as upholding 'right'
values and as guardians of 'proper'
At the end
• Convinced that he was not
• Refuses to attach any
blame to himself or his
• Finds reasons to doubt the
validity of the case.
• His main concern is the
possible threat to his
chance of a knighthood.
• In essence and effect, he
does not change at all.
What does he do?
• Mr Birling is a successful businessman, who has
been active in local politics, has been Lord Mayor
of Brumley and is the father of Eric and Sheila.
• He hosts a dinner to celebrate Shelia’s
engagement to Gerald Croft.
• He declares a man’s responsibility is only to
himself and his family.
• Two years ago he fired Eva Smith from his factory.
• He tries to intimidate the inspector, but also tried
to protect himself and his family.
• He becomes increasingly concerned about any
possible scandal.
• He is the one who takes the final phone call.
Putting your information to use!
• Mr Birling’s size helps to give him a threatening
appearance: he is a ‘heavy-looking, rather portentous
• He thinks of himself as a man who does well in
business, ‘a hard-headed practical man of business’,
who doesn’t let sentiment get in the way of whatever
needs to be done to succeed.
• He likes to air his views and is aware that he tends to
monopolise the conversation, suggesting he has a high
opinion of his own importance: ‘Yes, my dear, - I know
I’m talking too much’.
• He expects respect as he has been a member of the
town council, a Lord mayor and a magistrate: ‘I am a
public man’.
• Mr Birling sees himself as an important man in
Brumley and he is prepared to use his reputation
and friends to intimidate the inspector.
• His views are made clear early in the play and
they do not change.
• His cry that he would give the girl a thousand
pounds if he could is because he is afraid of what
the girl’s death will do to him, his family and his
chances of getting a knighthood, not because he
feels remorse over sacking her.
• He represents what socialists feel is wrong with
• He is a man with money, power and social
responsibility, but he has no sense of social
Mrs Sybil Birling
At the start
• Even more hard-faced and
arrogant than her husband.
• Introduced as her husband's
social superior.
• Is very snobbish, conscious of
and uses social position to try
and intimidate .
• She expects other to respect
her, her opinions and defer to
• Resents being contradicted,
even when caught lying by the
At the end
• Refuses to accept any part of
the blame for Eva’s death.
• Blames the ‘father’ of the
unborn child until she realises
it was her own son and then
blames Eva herself.
• She does not change in a
positive way; she becomes
even more determined to see
her position as being correct
and her actions justified.
What does Mrs Birling do?
• She is a prominent member of the Brumley
Women’s Charity Organisation.
• Mrs Birling praises Gerald for his timing and
presentation of the ring.
• She treats the inspector as an inferior.
• She is disgusted when she learns that Daisy
Renten was Gerald’s mistress.
• She persuaded the charity not to help the
pregnant girl.
• She blames the girl’s death on the father of the
child – who turns out to be her son.
• She claims she was the only one not to ‘give in’ to
the inspector.
• Mrs Birling is not a friendly person and rarely shows any affection. She
looks down on most people and expects the inspector to treat her with
respect: ‘a rather cold woman’ and ‘her husband’s superior’.
• She does not like and does not expect people to disagree with her, she is
used to being listened to and having her opinion accepted as right: ‘Please
don’t contradict me like that.’
• Even though Gerald comes from a good family and meets with her
approval as a future son-in-law, she cannot accept Gerald’s affair: ‘It’s
disgusting to me.’
• She is the most powerful and respected member of the group which runs
the charity, and is able to influence the decisions it makes: ‘the most
prominent member of the committee’.
• Despite her charity work, Mrs Birling lacks understanding of how other
people live, shown in her comments about ‘a girl of that sort’ and her
unwillingness to believe the girl’s reasons for refusing to take stolen
money or to marry the young man responsible for her pregnancy.
• Her lack of understanding extends to her family as she has been unaware
of Eric’s heavy drinking .
• She remains untouched by the inspector’s questions, although she is
shocked to learn of her son’s involvement. Having condemned Gerald’s
‘disgusting affair’, she forgets it once the threat of scandal is removed.
Sheila Birling
At the start
• Vain, she resented Eva being
attractive and wearing a gown
that she could not carry off.
• She is accepting of the way
things are and is indifferent to
social hypocrisy.
• Impressionable - willing to
accept new ideas/concepts
• She has an honest and
attractive character.
• She is not cold-blooded like
her parents are.
At the end
She and Eric are the only cause for
optimism in the play because they
change in attitude.
Affected by the Inspector's
revelations about family and
Her redeeming feature is that she is
willing to accept her portion of
responsibility and is truly sorry.
She helps the Inspector get to the
truth in other characters
Sheila sees that at the end of the
play that her parents do not learn.
What does she do?
• Sheila is the daughter of Mr and Mrs Birling and is
engaged to Gerald Croft.
• She shows genuine emotion when she hears that a
young woman has died.
• She was responsible for making the girl lose her job in
the dress shop.
• She realises that the inspector is not someone who can
be lied to.
• After hearing about his affair, she breaks off her
engagement to Gerald.
• She reveals tat Eric drinks too much.
• She understands that the family’s experiences that
night is meant to make them improve the way they
treat others.
• Shelia feels shock at the death of a young woman: ‘Oh
– how horrible! Was it an accident?’ She is naïve to
suggest that someone could drink a fatal amount of
disinfectant by ‘accident’, but it shows she can’t
imagine someone not having a lot to live for.
• Although bitter about Gerald’s relationship with Daisy
Renton, her curiosity needs to be satisfied and she is
strong enough to hear the whole story: ‘I wouldn’t miss
it for worlds’.
• She is prepared to accept responsibility for what she
has done: ‘I had her turned out of a job’.
• Shelia clearly believes that it doesn’t matter whether
the inspector is a real police officer or not. Her parents
are relieved that they may prevent a scandal, but she is
concerned that they all harmed someone: ‘it’s you two
who are being childish – trying not to face facts’.
• Sheila changes more than any other character. At
first she is playful and self-centred, enjoying the
attention her engagement brings. When she
hears of the girl’s death she shows a sensitive
side to her nature: she responds to the girl as a
person, not as cheap labour, and criticises her
father. When she realises her own jealousy and
bed temper led to the girl losing her job, she is
genuinely sorry. She grows stronger as the play
goes on, and has the strength of character to
respect Gerald’s honesty, even though she feels
they should end the engagement. She
understands the inspector’s message, that there
is a need for justice in society. These things all
help to make her a more sympathetic character.
At the start
Eric Birling
Eric is exposed as a drunkard, the
father of an illegitimate child, a liar,
a thief and an embezzler.
Eric, in a drunken stupor forced
himself upon Eva.
He declared that there was no love
involved, it was purely sex for him.
He is hostile and an irritant to his
father, asking awkward questions
and making comments that
Arthur Birling thinks that Eric has
not befitted from the expensive
education he has had (because it
was bought to improve status and
not intelligence).
A weak and lonely figure.
At the end
• Blames his mother for killing
his child (her grandchild).
• He admits he has acted
without thought of the
consequences and that was
why Eva thought he was like ‘a
• His emotional outburst shows
that he does recognise his part
in the tragedy.
• He does show signs that he
has changed in his attitude but
not as dramatically as Shelia.
What did he do?
• Eric is Shelia’s brother. He is employed in his father’s
business, drinks more than is good for him and is the
father of Daisy Renton’s (Eva) unborn child.
• Eric drinks too much at the family dinner.
• He met the girl in the bar of the Palace Theatre and
made her pregnant.
• He stole money from his father’s firm to give to the
• He accuses his mother of killing her own unborn
• He accepts his guilt, whether the inspector is a real
inspector or not.
• Mr Birling recognises tat Eric has had too much to
drink: ‘Just keep quiet, Eric, and don’t get excited’. He is
afraid that Eric might easiliy say something he
• Eric has been to an expensive school and then
university, but Mr Birling feels he knows more of life
than his son: ‘That’s something this public-school-andVarsity life you’ve had doesn’t seem to teach you’.
• We know that Eric does get drunk, and the opposite of
what his mother says is true: ‘Besides, you’re not the
type – you don’t get drunk’.
• Mr Birling thinks that by being the boss’s son, Eric has
had too easy a life: ‘Your trouble is – you’ve been
• Eric is a misfit. He is ‘not quite at ease, half shy, half
assertive’. He is weak willed and looks for an easy way
out of troubles. He sees his father as ‘not the kind of
father a chap can go to when he’s in trouble’. He
doesn’t share his father’s ‘hard-headed’ attitude to
business and to his employer. An unpleasant side of his
character is brought out when he drinks. He insists on
going home with the girl, but he cannot remember
what happened that first time. He makes the girl
pregnant and steals money from his father’s firm.
When the girl suspects he has stolen the money she
refuses to take any more, and also refuses to marry
him. Like Shelia, he believes that their experiences at
the hands of the inspector should make them improve
their behaviour.
Gerald Croft
At the start
Outlook on life very similar to Arthur
Birling, they agree on issues.
He makes the decisions between
himself and Sheila.
Tries at first to conceal his involvement
with Eva Smith/Daisy Renton
Helped Eva at first out of genuine
sympathy for her situation and did not
take advantage of her in the drunken
and violent way that Eric did.
Gerald did make Eva happy for a period
of time, which is clear from her own
diary and her actions after the 'affair' (p
Possibly most complex character in
family as he bridges the old/young
At the end
Shows genuine remorse when
involvement is clear, unlike Sybil and
He is the one who thinks in the clearest
way by considering the identity of the
He is the first to devise a way out for
the family and checks with the
infirmary to see if there is a dead girl.
He also suggests the possibility of there
being more than one girl involved.
Uses the situation at the end of the play
to find a way out.
He believes that Sheila will accept the
engagement ring again and asserts that
all is well
What did he do?
• Gerald is the son of a wealthy industrialist and business
rival of Mr Birling and has just become engaged to
Sheila Birling.
• Gerald gives her the ring during the dinner party.
• He agrees with Mr Birling about the way a business
should be run.
• He rescued Daisy Renton from the drunken Alderman
• He kept Daisy as his mistress for 6 months, than broke
off their relationship.
• He finds out that a police sergeant has never heard of
inspector Goole.
• He telephones the infirmary to find out that no girl
died that da.
• Gerald gets on easily with people, is self-confident and
assured, an ‘easy, well-bred young man about town’, it
looks as if he knows a lot about life.
• He has a sense of what to do and when to do it, and he
clearly has the approval of Mrs Birling: ‘That was clever
of you Gerald’.
• Mr Birling sees Gerald as being like himself - a
determined man of business; he sees the engagement
as a way of bringing the two family businesses
together: ‘You’re just the kind of son-in-law I always
• Gerald has been hiding his feelings, like an English
gentleman is expected to do. deep down he is greatly
saddened by the girl’s death, and has a strong feeling
of responsibility for what has happened: ‘I’m rather more upset – by this business than I probably appear’.
• Gerald is not a member of the family, but his
engagement to Sheila, business interests and the
knowledge of the girl link him closely to them. He is a
complex character. The others acted out of greed,
anger, jealousy, spite lust or pride, but Gerald seems to
have acted out of genuine sympathy and attraction. His
sensitive nature is revealed in the way he produces the
engagement ring, his reaction to the death of the girl
and by his gently asking Sheila if he can come back
after she returned the ring. He impresses Sheila after
his admission about his relationship with Daisy Renton.
She admits ‘I rather respect you more than I have ever
done before’. At the same time he agrees that Mr
Birling was right to sack Eva Smith, and wordly-wise
enough to enquire about the inspector and then to
phone the infirmary and lie about his interest in a
possible suicide.
Key Themes
Social position
An equitable society
• In this play, J. B. Priestley presents us with a powerful social
message. We are shown the comfortable home and rich
way of life of the Birling family. Be contrast we have
accounts of the desperate attempts of workers to increase
their poor wages and the drab and sordid life that the girl is
forced to live as the result of the actions of such people as
the Birlings.
• The inspector champions ta cause of the poor and tries to
get the others to accept that all the people share a
common humanity and to be a part of a community. The
message gets through to Sheila and Eric but their father
dismisses the idea of a community, in which the
responsibility and guilt are shared, as the foolish mutterings
of socialist cranks.
• As the play progresses, the inspector’s point is put across
more and more forcefully and he becomes the
spokesperson for the disadvantaged and the voice of
• Most of the characters have a narrow view of what it
means to be responsible. Mr Birling feels it is his
responsibility to be successful, making as much profit
as possible and to provide for his family. Yet, he is not a
father that Eric can turn to.
• Mrs Birling accepts a responsibility as chairwoman of
the Women’s Charity Organisation but only if she feels
the cause is deserving and does not offend her.
• Eric feels no responsibility at all. He drinks and feels
nothing when he acts rashly.
• Gerald showed some responsibility when he cared for
the girl but he then used her for his own pleasure until
he tired of her.
• Gerald and Sheila appear to be in love until the
revelation about Gerald’s affair proved just how
little Shelia knew about him. Trust is a huge part
of love and this was tested.
• Mr and Mrs Birling measure their love in their
material possessions and social status. It gives the
impression that they have a cold, loveless
marriage that extends towards their children.
• Both Gerald and Eric had a relationship with the
girl but both deny they loved her. They have a
physical concept of love.
• The inspector tries to give them a sense of love
towards their fellow human beings.
• The play is set before WW1 and the sinking of the
Titanic. This is a deliberate attempt to gain the
audiences appreciation that despite Mr Birling’s belief
that things were all good, they are about to change
dramatically. Will the characters change when the
world changes?
• Another theory is that the play is a chance for the
audience to consider how they may change their ideas
if they had the chance to re-live events – to re-wind
and play back a section of their lives.
• The inspector, arriving before the suicide is a reality, he
offers each character a chance to reflect on the
consequences of their actions and to change the future
by breaking the cycle.
• Only Sheila and Eric see this as a wake-up call.

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