Act 1a Mr Birling
A family are celebrating the engagement __of their daughter,__Sheila Birling to Gerald Croft. Sheila is excited about the ring she has received but does show hints that she is concerned about her financé’s fidelity. She jests about, _‘all last summer, when you never came near me, and I wondered what had happened to you.’ ___Her mother encourages her not to worry and that __husbands should be given the freedom to do as they wish. This attitude does not bode well with Sheila.
The men are left to talk about business __and the world. Mr Birling expresses how happy he is about the engagement._‘When you marry, you’ll be marrying at a very good time.’_He is thinking primarily about the __financial gain that his business will experience if the rival companies align. He knows that Lady Croft is unhappy about this wedding proposal so he tries to claim that his daughter will be more acceptable, when he receives a Knighthood.
Mr Birling continues to tell Gerald and Eric that the _world is heading in a positive direction. The labour troubles and talk of war are_‘impossible’_. __He asserts that advances in transport are exciting and that the Titanic is an_‘absolutely unsinkable’_ship. He finally insults the Russians, claiming that they will always be ‘_behind-hand’. Mr Birling begins to _refute socialist ideas __and says that,‘a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own’_.
The unsuspecting family are soon interrupted by the arrival of an Inspector Goole, who informs them of the tragic suicide of a girl named Eva Smith.
The Inspector reveals that the girl had worked for Mr Birling as a machinist. She wanted Mr Birling to treat the workers fairly by increasing their wage to_‘twenty-five shillings a week instead of twenty-two and six’. __He was outraged with the coup__and refused to give into their demands. At the‘end of September, nineteen-ten’Eva Smith was sacked, because she was the ringleader of the protest. He believes that his involvement was not the final cause of her demise, because,‘The girl left us nearly two years ago’_.
Eric sympathises with the girl and questions why the father didn’t give her want she wanted. Mr Birling and Gerald and firm in their response, they aim to keep labour costs down and aim for higher profit. Even at the end of his interrogation he remains extremely arrogant. He proudly asserts,‘I can’t accept any responsibility’.
- What relationship did Mr Birling have with the victim?
- What did Eva Smith want from Mr Birling?
- Your answer should include: Pay Rise / Twenty-five / 25 / Shillings
- How does Mr Birling feel, after his interrogation?
- Your answer should include: Proud / No Responsibility / Arrogant
Act 1b Sheila
In the middle of Act One, the attention is turned towards Sheila Birling. Her own brother claimed that she has a,__‘nasty temper sometimes’__which is evident when she met the victim.
Eva Smith got another job in an affluent department store called Milwards. Sheila was having a very bad day and was upset to see that a _dress looked better on the working-class girl than herself. __She admits,‘I was absolutely furious’, so she __demanded that the girl be dismissed immediately. __The Inspector clarifies that Sheila‘used the power that you had, as a daughter of a good customer and also a man well known in the town, to punish the girl’. As a result of her jealousy, the girl lost her job and was once again in a __destitute __situation. Sheila feels guilty for her actions and realises that it was such a cruel thing to do.‘I’ll never, never do it again to anybody.’_
At end of the Act One, the victim is introduced by another name, Daisy Renton. _Gerald pours himself some alcohol __and tries to evade knowing anything about the girl. Sheila probes him,‘You not only knew her but you knew her very well. Otherwise, you wouldn’t look so guilty’_. __He apologises and admits to Sheila that he finished seeing her six months. __He is adamant that he has nothing to do with her suicide. Sheila remains calm and suggests that Gerald be honest with the Inspector, because she believes he already knows the truth.
The Inspector returns and poses a question. Waiting for Gerald’s response.
- What did Sheila demand?
- Your answer should include: Eva Smith / Dismissed / Sacked
- What emotions was Sheila feeling that day?
- Your answer should include: Jealousy / Anger / Frustration
- How does Sheila feel, after her interrogation?
- Your answer should include: Guilty / Sad / Upset
Act 2a Gerald Croft
At the beginning of Act Two, Gerald is forced to answer the Inspector’s questions. _He thinks that Sheila is happy seeing him squirm under pressure, __because she was interrogated before him. The Inspector defends Sheila and explains,‘we’ll have to share our guilt’_.
Mrs Birling enters thinking that she knows what is taking place and tries to dissuade the Inspector from continuing. Sheila tries to stop her mother, feeling that soon enough the mother will say or do something that she will regret afterwards. Mrs Birling is indignant that this will not be the case and is annoyed that the Inspector has,‘made a great impression on this child’. Sheila contradicts her mother’s commands and insists on staying in the room to hear about Gerald’s affair. __Mrs Birling retorts that they can’t understand why the‘Girl’s of that class-’ ___behave the way they do. Sheila further warns her mother,‘you musn’t try to build up a kind of wall between us and that girl’_.
The Inspector wants to know more about Eric and why he is not in the dining room with the rest of the family. _Mrs Birling thinks that he has had too much to drink __for the occasion. Although she doesn’t want to get her brother into trouble, Sheila reveals that reveals that __Eric has a drink problem, __‘He’s been steadily drinking too much for the last two years’_. Mrs Birling is in complete disbelief and believes that __her son is only a boy, who can do no wrong. __It is __only when Gerald confirms Sheila’s claim __that she seems to consider the issue.
Gerald finally admits that he met Daisy Renton in March of the previous year. She was in the Palace music hall in Brumley which was a popular place to meet prostitutes. He noticed Daisy, because she,‘looked quite different. She was very pretty – soft brown hair and big dark eyes’. Realisation sets in and he is distressed at the fact that his former mistress is now dead. Gerald saw that Daisy was uncomfortable so he injected and saved from a renowned womaniser. Together they left the bar and went to a hotel to talk. She revealed that her parents were dead and that she came from out of town. She touched on the fact that she had been _unfortunate with two jobs __and as a result she didn’t have any money. Gerald kindly accommodated her in his friend’s rooms, whilst he was away in Canada. Gerald emphasises that he did this kind deed only because, __‘I was sorry for her’. __Daisy Renton became his mistress because,‘She was young and pretty and warm hearted – and intensely grateful. I became at once the most important person in her life’_.
Sheila is angry to learn _the true reason why Gerald was away from her throughout the summer. __She refers to him s‘the wonderful fairy prince’_.
The affair ended before the first week in September, when Gerald had to go away on business. He gave her a parting gift to see her through to the end of the year. She told him that,‘she’d been happier than she’d ever been before’. Daisy then left Brumley for two months and went to a seaside place.
Gerald excuses himself from the Birling household. He explains, that he is really upset and needs to go for a walk. Before he exits, Sheila gives him back the engagement ring. She respects him for telling the truth but feels that these revelations have made a difference to their future relationship. ‘You and I aren’t the same people who sat down to dinner here. We’d have to start all over again, getting to know each other-’.
- What relationship did Gerald have with the victim?
- Your answer should include: Mistress / Prostitute
- How did Gerald feel about the victim?
- Your answer should include: Cared / Felt Sorry / Upset
- How has this revelation altered the engagement between Gerald and Sheila?
- Your answer should include: Sheila / Ring / Start Again
Act 2b Mrs Birling
In the middle of Act Two, the Inspector next turns his attention to Mrs Birling. He shows her the photograph of the girl but she claims not to recognise her. __The Inspector asks Mrs Birling about her role on the __Brumley Women’s charity Organisation. She explains its purpose;‘women in distress can appeal for help in various forms’. The Inspector audaciously reveals,‘Mrs Birling spoke to and saw her only two weeks ago’. It is only then that she admits that she knows the victim. __Mrs Birling felt that the girl was either mocking her or trying to impersonate her by calling herself Mrs Birling when she went before the committee. __This angered Sybil and she discloses,‘naturally that was one of the things that prejudiced me against her case’.
Mrs Birling was _close-minded to the victim’s experience. __She adamantly states,‘I didn’t nothing I’m ashamed of’. The Inspector responds by saying,‘I think you did something terribly wrong – and that you’re going to spend the rest of your life regretting it’. The Inspector tells the others what Mrs Birling already knows, that the girl was pregnant. Sybil’s advice was,‘Go and look for the father of the child. It’s his responsibility.’ __Instead of helping her like the charity should, she slammed the door in face. __She didn’t believe the victim when she told her that the father was a‘youngster – silly and wild and drinking too much’_. She didn’t want to accept stolen money and that is why she approached the committee for help, because of her strong morals.
Again, Mrs Birling attempts to deflect responsibility from herself and demands, that the father be found and,‘he ought to be dealt with very severely - ’. Sheila interjects and tries to stop her mother from saying anything else that will incriminate the father of the child, Eric.
Mrs Birling’s final words are, ‘I don’t believe it. I wont believe it…’
- What did the victim want from Mrs Birling?
- Your answer should include: Money / Support / Charity
- How did Mrs Birling feel about the victim?
- Your answer should include: Prejudiced / Didn’t like her / Lower Class / Embarrassed
- How does Mrs Birling feel, after her interrogation?
- Your answer should include: Proud / Not accepting responsibility / Arrogant / Blames the father
Act 3a Eric
Act Three begins with Eric_‘standing just inside the room and the other are staring at him’.He feels that everyone knows how he was involved with the victim,__which the Inspector confirms that they do. Mrs Birling expresses that,_‘I can’t believe it. There must be some mistake.’_Sheila exposes her mother’s rhetoric about blaming the father of the child and making sure that he is made an example of. In her defence, Mrs Birling says,_‘I never dreamt. Besides, you’re not the type – you don’t get drunk - ’. __Again, Mrs Birling is__ignorant to the truths __that have been revealed during the course of the evening. Mrs Birling and Sheila leave the dining room at the request of Mr Birling.
The Inspector is intent on continuing with his investigation and demands that they adjust their family relationships, once he has gone.
Eric explains that he met the victim in November at the Palace bar. __He had been drinking with friends, when he met her and they drank together. He insisted on going back to the girl’s accommodation, despite her not wanting him to enter, he confesses,‘I was in that state when a chap easily turns nasty – and I threatened to make a row’. He is grieved when he says,‘And I didn’t even remember- that’s the hellish thing’. __He didn’t remember forcing himself on her that night nor did her know her name and where she lived.
They met again, a fortnight afterwards, she was in the Palace bar again. This time they spoke to each other and then they slept together again. Eric truthfully discloses,‘I wasn’t in love with her or anything – but I liked her – she was pretty and a good sport - ’
After a couple more rendezvous, the girl told Eric that he was to be a father. He offered to marry her but she refused the proposal, because she,‘Said I didn’t love her – and all that.’_Then he‘insisted on giving her enough money to keep her going’she too refused this, once she realised that Eric had embezzled‘about fifty pound’_from the family company.
Mr Birling is furious to learn of his son’s treachery and is _concerned about covering up the scandal as soon as possible. __He asks why Eric didn’t speak to him about the affair. Eric responds,‘Because you’re not the kind of father a chap could go to when he’s in trouble’_. This statement aggravates Mr Birling even further.
The Inspector says that he doesn’t have much time left and that the family should_‘divide the responsibility between you when I’ve gone’_. He wants to establish the fact that the girl had morals and didn’t want to deal in stolen money. As well as alert Eric to his mother’s involvement with the case. Eric is distraught and reproaches his mother, ‘you killed her – and the child she’d have had too – my child – your own grandchild – you killed them both’.
Goole is intent in making Mrs Birling realise and remember that she,‘refused her even the pitiable little bit of organised charity you had in your power to grant her.’_Eric used her,‘as if she was an animal a thing, not a person.’She was involved too but it started with the victim wanting a small pay-increase to earn‘twenty-five shillings a week’_.
Birling tries to bribe the Inspector by offering hush money to bury the scandal,‘I’d give thousands – yes, thousands’_yet it is clear that he is offering money at the wrong time. Goole retorts,‘You can’t do her any more harm. And you can’t do her any good now, either’_.
- What relationship did Eric have with the victim?
- Your answer should include: Romantic / Father of child
- What did the victim refuse to accept from Eric?
- Stolen money
- How does Eric feel, after his interrogation?
- Your answer should include: Guilty / Upset / Angry
Act 3b Lessons and Truths
The Inspector gives a speech of morals. He tells them to remember,‘there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us’_He states that everyone’s lives are intertwined; their hopes, fears, suffering and happiness can be dependent on how they are treated. He uses the metaphor,‘We are all members of one body’to stress that if one person is suffering, the whole body should suffer and work harder to support that weakness. Finally, he proclaims that there will be serious consequences if people refuse to listen, __‘If men will not learn… they will be taught in fire and blood and anguish’. ___He is warning them that mankind will face a tumultuous future if they do not take responsibility for their actions.
Then, the Inspector excuses himself. The door slams behind him.
The family are left bewildered. Mr Birling immediately starts blaming __Eric and is concerned,‘Most of this is bound to come out. There’ll be a public scandal.’_He continues,‘I was almost certain for a knighthood’. Mrs Birling is ashamed of her son’s drinking and looking for prostitutes. Eric agrees that she should be but he is also ashamed of them and their role in the whole issue. Sheila is mortified that her parents,‘don’t seem to have learnt anything.’ ___They are making excuses for themselves instead of thinking about how they are responsible for a young girl committing suicide.
Thinking of the Inspector’s timing, Sheila begins to question whether or not he was a real Inspector,‘there was something curious about him. He never seemed like an ordinary police inspector’. _NeitherSheila nor Eric believe that Goole’s existence is important. __Whereas, the parents reflect on the Inspector’s behaviour and conclude,‘his manner was quite extraordinary; so – so rude – and assertive’. The parents smugly believe that the children have been‘bluffed’_.
Gerald returns, announcing that he has a special reason for his return. He asked where the Inspector was and how he behaved. Then declares,‘That man wasn’t a police officer’. He quizzed a police officer who said that no such man existed in their force. Excitedly, Mr Birling exclaims,‘By jingo! A fake!’_He hurriedly rings Colonel Roberts who confirms Gerald’s conclusions. __Both Gerald and Mr Birling are relieved by the news but Sheila sarcastically interjects,‘I suppose we’re all nice people now’. __Mr and Mrs Birling are careful in their responses, because they do not want Gerald to know the true extent of their,‘crimes and idiocies’_.
Eric and Sheila are too concerned with the fact that someone has died and they were all involved. __‘You’re beginning to pretend now that nothing’s really happened at all’.__Mr Birling threatens to throw Eric out of the house, because of his belligerent attitude.
Gerald triumphantly _extends the conspiracy by questioning whether or not the so-called victim is even the same girl that they knew. __Also, he claims,‘We’ve no proof it was the same photograph and therefore no proof it was the same girl.’The parents continue to comprehend the Inspector’s call and his accusations. Birling is confident now,‘I’m convinced… No police inquiry. No one girl that all this happened to. No scandal-’. Gerald suggests that they ring the infirmary to determine whether or not a young girl has committed suicide. He tells the others,‘No girl has died in here today’_.
Mr Birling, Mrs Birling and Gerald are exultant in their little investigation. Mr Birling tries to console Sheila,‘the whole thing’s different now’. _She is frightened by their lack of remorse,‘You began to learn something. And now you’ve stopped. ___You’re ready to on in the same old way’. Gerald tries to calm Sheila down by offering her the engagement ring again. She refuses,‘It’s too soon. I must think’. Mr Birling mocks Eric and Sheila,‘the famous younger generation who know it all’. The ringing telephone interrupts Birling’s laughing.
In response to the brief call, Mr Birling is_‘panic stricken’. He informs the others that,‘A girl has just died… And a police inspector is on his way here – to ask some – questions’. All of the characters, in the dining room,‘stare guiltily and dumbfounded’_.
- What is the purpose of the Inspector’s final speech?
- Your answer should include: Wants them to change / Eva Smith / John Smith / Intertwined / Learn / Lessons
- How do Mr and Mrs Birling behave when Gerald returns?
- Your answer should include: Proud / Laughing / Smiling / Relieved
- How do all the characters respond to the final phone call?
- Your answer should include: Stare / Guiltily / Dumb-founded / Shocked