In my opinion, all five of the characters that are interrogated by the Inspector, Inspector Goole, are mainly to blame for the death of Eva Smith. They are Arthur Birling, Sheila Birling, Sybil Birling, Eric Birling and finally Gerald Croft. However, some of them are more responsible than others, although it cannot be said that it was solely one character’s responsibility; they all, one by one drove this girl to suicide.
The first person the inspector interrogates is Arthur Birling.
Mr.Birling is a much respected member of the community and is a typical stereotype of an upper class man. He has a very low view of people lower in society than him. Because Eva Smith and the other workers weren’t getting paid enough, ‘they went on strike,’ as Mr. Birling refused to increase their wage as ‘it’s my duty to keep labour costs down… we’d have added twelve per cent to labour costs. ‘ Mr. Birling then said ‘we let them all come back – at the old rates – except the four or five ring-leaders, who’d started the trouble.
‘ One of the ringleaders was Eva Smith, and he said that she ‘had a lot to say – far too much – so she had to go. ‘ His excuse was, ‘If you don’t come down sharply on some of these people, they’d soon be asking the earth. ‘ At first he tries to get out of any of the responsibility for Eva’s death; he doesn’t want his reputation to be harmed in any way.
He says that he is up for a ‘knighthood’. He’s not prepared to accept any responsibility for her death.
He says he was simply doing his job, ‘look there’s nothing mysterious or scandalous about this business,’ and ‘it happened nearly two years ago, obviously it has nothing to do with the wretched girls suicide,’ show this. In this evidence here he is clearly defending himself and not accepting any responsibility whatsoever for what he did, and he truly thinks he did the right thing. He neither has nor shows guilt about what he has done as he maintains the view he was in the right.
He can see no connection with the fact that he sacked a girl two years ago and that those actions caused her to commit suicide, ‘well don’t tell me that because I discharged her from my employment nearly two years ago. ‘ He also tries to change the subject by asking the inspector, ‘How do you get on with our chief constable, Colonel Roberts? ‘ He then goes on to say, ‘Perhaps I ought to warn you that he’s an old friend of mine, and that I see him fairly frequently,’. He mentioned this, as he wanted to intimidate the inspector, and also look innocent and powerful.
He here again is obviously defending himself. As far as responsibility goes, I think that he may have played a part in Eva’s death, but only a minor one because the last time he saw the girl was nearly two years ago and surely something which happened two years ago could not make her commit suicide now. He terminated Eva Smith’s employment at his factory for starting a strike, but Eva Smith was a good worker and it should have been easy for her to find another job elsewhere, ‘ – She’d been working in one of our machine shops for over a year.
A good worker too. ‘ She did thereafter find another job with better pay; this time at Milwards, where she was unfortunately fired from too. Mr. Birling didn’t have or show any remorse about what he did. He felt he was completely justified although he did feel slight sorrow for the girl’s suicide. He still felt he wasn’t at all responsible, ‘Still, I can’t accept any responsibility. If we were all responsible for everything that happened to everybody we’d had anything to do with, it would be very awkward, wouldn’t it? ‘
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