Gerald is not a member of the Birling family but he is still caught in their ‘web of sin’. He found Eva in a bar where he was hoping to pick up a mistress; he found her in the clutches of Alderman Megarty. Alderman was harassing Eva. When Gerald, like her knight in shining armour, made Alderman go away, they started to talk and became friends and eventually lovers. This all happened during the time that Sheila and Gerald were lovers. This is the largest part of the immoral act committed by Gerald, which was in fact not against Eva but against Shelia.
Eventually he decided that their relationship had to end so he gave her some money and they went their separate ways. It is my belief that for a time Gerald and Eva were in love, as when it sinks in that she is dead he says, page 35: ‘Sorry – I – well, I’ve suddenly realised – taken it in properly – that she’s dead. ‘ Gerald was the only member of the group to show some love and compassion to Eva. Later, Gerald appears to be indifferent to the death of Eva especially after the inspector has left and he believes it was all a hoax. Indifference is also shown to the fact that he sinned.
Mrs Birling denied Eva benefits from a charity of which she was the chairman. This was for several reasons, but the main one was the fact that Eva fabricated a name when it was her turn to be interviewed by the charity’s committee. Her name of choice was Mrs Birling, this was because it was Eric who had made her pregnant, and the real Mrs Birling obviously did not know this fact, and seemed to think that Eva was personally insulting her. Eva therefore received no benefits. This was a highly immoral act, as the members of the committee are not meant to be prejudiced towards any appeal.
Mrs Birling thought that what she did was acceptable because Eva had lied. However, it was in fact not a lie as it was Eric’s child, also a Mr Birling, and he did propose to marry her but she had refused, as she knew it would not work. Eric was in a bar one night and he got talking to Eva, he also got drunk. He then walked Eva home and forced himself upon her, page 52: ‘Well, I was in that state when a chap easily turns nasty’. After she told him she was pregnant he began to steal money from his father’s business to help her.
This was the only unintentional act of cruelty to happen to Eva, as all the others were purposeful acts of cruelty. He was not cruel to her but still he brought her suffering. He was another member of the group actually affected by the events. As he seems to have been changed for the better by the death of Eva. The Inspector’s name is Goole. Pronounced the same as the ghost, or ghoul. This makes me think that he is a ghost or a spectre of some kind, sent to the Birling family to show them the errors of their ways.
A lot like the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future from Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’. He appears to know about Eva’s death before it has even happened: perhaps he has some kind of sixth sense. He says towards the end of the third act, page 54: ‘And my trouble is – that I haven’t much time. ‘ Is this because he knows the real police will soon call the house to ask their questions? We know in retrospect that at this point there is no dead body at the mortuary, because Gerald Croft rings the mortuary to ascertain this soon after Goole has left.
I do not believe that Inspector Goole is a real police inspector. His mannerisms are unlike those of a real police officer, although he does refuse a drink at the beginning, page 11: ‘No thank you, Mr Birling. I’m on duty. ‘ I think he says this because he is acting the role of a policeman. He becomes too emotionally involved in the situation; a real policeman would keep the questioning on an official level. For example, he says to Mr Birling, page 46: ‘Don’t stammer and yammer at me again, man. I’m losing all patience with you people. ‘ This story is told as a drama in play format.
The end of each of the three acts, including the final one, is completed with a moment of suspense. The audience is left anticipating the next act, wondering what will happen. The audience also become emotionally attached to the characters and want to know whether Sheila and Gerald will remain engaged, they want to know what the Birlings will do with Eric, and will there be a public scandal? They are drawn in to the rights and wrongs of the characters’ actions, and they pass judgement upon Gerald and Eric’s behaviour, Mrs Birling’s snobbery, Mr Birling’s self righteousness.
The audience listens to the moral of the story, that we are individuals in a society, who should look after each other, and not be merely out for what we can get. The final few words of the play are unexpected. We have had the feeling that the Inspector is not all he seems, but now that the real police (presumably) have telephoned, things become clearer. I wanted to see a continuation of the play, with real events, real police, and see how much the characters changed when faced with the information again.
No doubt Sheila and Eric would approach the situation differently, they seem to have learned a lesson from events. On page 70, Sheila says: ‘ Everything we said had happened really had happened. If it didn’t end tragically, then that’s lucky for us. But it might have done. ‘ and on page 71: ‘You’re pretending everything’s just as it was before’. She and Eric have moved on from their original viewpoints, and this gives us hope for the future, it is to be hoped that they would not behave so badly again in their future relationships with people. Unfortunately, we are unable to know the real ending.