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An Inspector Calls is located in the made up city of Brumley in 1912 when business in Britain was doing well. The play concentrates on a wealthy industrial family called the Birlings who are holding a dinner party to celebrate the engagement of their daughter Sheila to Gerald Croft, the son of a wealthy businessman. The party is going rather well until it is interrupted by a man claiming to be an Inspector who is investigating the suicide of a young working class women called Eva Smith who later goes by the name of Daisy Renton.
He questions all of the Birlings and Gerald Croft and then exits rather abruptly leaving the question of who is responsible for the death of this girl. The Birlings and Gerald find the Inspector’s behaviour rather peculiar and begin to suspect he was not genuine. They investigate their theory and find that there is no girl in mortuary who has committed suicide. This news delights Mr. and Mrs. Birling and they look back at the evening with laughter for them all being so naive to have been taken in by a man claiming to be an inspector.
The celebrations are short lived though as the phone rings and they hear that a girl has just died on the way to the infirmary and a police inspector is coming round to question them. This end’s the play and leaves the imagination of the audience to decide who is responsible for Eva Smith’s suicide, if it is in fact Eva Smith who has just died. Mr. Birling is a successful factory owner, ex-Lord Mayor of Brumley and a local magistrate. He is blind to the concerns of his workers, his own actions and the world outside of Britain.
He is obsessed with himself and his search to make more money, he says that industry is prospering and can’t see why anyone would won’t to interrupt it by starting a War. He does not take into account that other people might value different things more highly than money. The only thing he worries about when he finds that someone has died is that whether he will loose the chance of his knighthood and that a public scandal might occur. Mrs. Birling is very arrogant, judging people by their social position.
She expects others below her social class to naturally respect her and never to question her opinion. She is generally unaware of what is going on around her and deliberately blind to what she does not wish to see. When she finds that Eva Smith committed suicide Mrs. Birling cannot see how it has anything to do with her as Eva is lower class. Mrs. Birling feels that the lower class’s are totally different breed of animal from her own class. Eric is the youngest of the group. He is a drunk, robber and a humiliation.
In the eyes of his father he is a failure, as he will never make as much money as his father has done which is the only important thing to his father. Eric particularly disagrees with his father over the reason for not giving workers more money. Mr. Birling points out that the reason why Eric thinks workers should average more than 22 and 6 a week is why he is not commanding the Birling empire. Eric finds his father distant and particularly heartless. Gerald is a businessman and a member of a family with higher social class than the Birlings.
He is in many ways like Mr. Birling straight away trying to conceal his involvement with Eva. The difference is that Gerald unlike Mr. Birling feels remorse for what he has done. He is least to blame for Eva’s suicide as he genuinely made her happy for the time he knew her. Sheila is very suggestible; she respects the Inspector and does what he asks. Sheila is honest and this helps her to realize what she has done to Eva. Her parents do not like her honesty and see her as being disloyal to them.
Sheila sees the gruelling interview as a learning curve and even when she finds that Inspector Goole was not a real Inspector unlike the others she still cannot let go of the guilt, which she carries for being partly responsible for Eva’s death. Inspector Goole is a strong persuasive man. He can also be seen as some one sent from the future to try and convince people to change before it’s to late. In the book it shows us that the Inspector intimidates the person he is interviewing by looking hard at the person before speaking. This tactic works to the extent that no one dares to challenge him while he is in the room.