Who do you Think is to Blame for the Death of Eva Smith
Eva died two hours before the inspector came. She died because she drank a lot of “strong disinfectant” which burnt her “inside out”. Inspector Goole goes to the Birling’s house to confront each one of them and place responsibility on them. Though the inspector does not tell us it, it is quite obvious that he is there not to find the “main culprit” but instead he is there to make the Birling’s see through somebodies eyes of the Lower “class” and feel some “responsibility”.
Each and every one of them, Mr Birling, Sheila, Gerald, Mrs Birling and Eric, all played a part in Eva’s death and the inspector wants them to realise this and accept responsibility. Mr Birling holds the big responsibility of starting the whole thing, and he was the first to turn Eva away. Eva Smith was working at “the Works” which Mr Birling owned. She had been working in one of the “machine shops” for over year and she was a “good worker”. She was about to be promoted to a “leading operator” which was a person who was the “head” of a small group of girls.
When Eva and everyone else came back from the August holidays they were all “restless” and asked for a pay rise. However Mr Birling refused their offer saying he couldn’t even “consider” it. Eva and all of the other girls decided to go on strike which didn’t “last long”. The “pitiful affair” was over after a week or two. Mr Birling let everyone back apart from the ring-leaders, who “started all of the “trouble”. Unfortunately Eva was one of the ring-leaders and like the rest, she was fired. This was the start of the snow ball effect of events that drove Eva towards killing herself and her unborn child.
However Mr Birling refused to accept responsibility for his actions. Sheila was next to turn Eva down, all because of her bad temper. After “two months” of barely surviving, after Mr Birling fired her, Eva found a job at a dress shop. This dress store was Millwards, which happened to be one of Sheila’s favourite dress shops and Eva was “very lucky” to get a job there. Sheila went into Millwards to try on a dress which both the shop assistant and Mrs Birling were “against”. When Sheila tried on the dress she knew they were right because it “didn’t suit” her and this put her in a bad mood.
Eva and the assistant, “Miss Francis”, brought the dress up from the work room. Miss Francis asked something about the dress and to show them Eva held up the dress as if she was “wearing” it and Sheila thought it “suited” her. When Sheila tried the dress on and saw it didn’t suit her, she “caught sight” of Eva smiling to Miss Francis and Sheila interpreted Eva’s smile wrongly. Sheila became infuriated and was “very rude” to them. She stormed off to the manager and told him that Eva had been “very impertinent”.
She told the manager that if he didn’t fire Eva she would never “go near” Millwards again and would “persuade” Mrs Birling to “close” the family account. This was the next event that let suicide persuade Eva. However Sheila accepted responsibility for her actions and even grieved for Eva. After Sheila “compelled” Millwards to discharge Eva, Eva changed her name to Daisy Renton to start again. This is when Gerald stepped into her life and became one of the main people in her roller-coaster life. Gerald went to the Palace Hotel Bar in Brumley because the show in the Music Hall wasn’t “very bright”.
He first saw Daisy when she was “wedged” into a corner by Old Joe Meggarty, who was known as a “notorious womaniser”. Daisy saw Gerald looking at her and gave him a look which was “nothing less than a cry for help”. Gerald told Mr Meggarty that “the manager had a message for him”. This freed Daisy from Mr Meggarty and his “half-drunk and goggle-eyed” stare. Gerald took Daisy out of the Palace Bar at once. He took her to the County Hotel and they talked. They met again two nights later, “not accidently this time”, and he let her move into his friends “set of rooms” while he was in Canada.
He also gave her money to keep her going and visited her “regularly”. She soon became his “mistress” after he became the “most important person” in her life. However in the “first week of September” Gerald had to go away on a business trip and he broke it off with Daisy before he left. Daisy was very “gallant” about it because she knew he didn’t love her and would never marry her. However this did affect her a lot because once again her hopes had been risen, only to be put back down again. Quite rightly Gerald accepted responsibility and felt bad for his actions toward Daisy.
The next person to meet and turn down Eva was Eris. Eris meet Eva in the same place Herald met her, the Palace Hotel Bar one night in November. He was there with a few friends and he had been there for a few hours so he was a bit “squiffy”. He went over to Eva and began talking to her. He “stood” her a few drinks and by the time they left he was rather “far gone”. He insisted on going to her lodgings. However Eva refused to let him in which made Eric angry just as Sheila had been. He began to threaten her saying he would “make a row” which would get her kicked out of where she was staying.
She reluctantly let him inside. He met her again about a fortnight later, but not by “appointment” and the events of before was very “vague” in Eric’s mind. Eric went home with her again but they talked for “a bit” this time. They met twice again and Eva told Eric that she was going to “have a baby” and Eric was in a “hell of a state” about it and so was Eva. Eva didn’t want to marry Eric so instead Eric gave her some money to keep her going for a while, until she “refused” to take anymore because she knew it was stolen.
This put Eva into a very sticky situation because the money she had was not going to last her long and she was now going to have a baby to support as well. Eric wished that he could have done more and he accepted responsibility. However this did push Eva even further towards her end. Mrs Birling was the final person to turn Eva down and the one who finally pushed her over the edge. After running out of money, Eva decided to go to the Brumley Woman’s Charity for help. Eva was on her final straw and changed her name to “Mrs Birling” after Eric.
Unfortunately for Eva the real Mrs Birling was the one who took her appeal. When Mrs Birling meet Eva and found out what she was calling herself, she thought it was a piece of “gross impertinence” and she soon became “prejudice” against Eva. Eva created a fake story so she didn’t look as bad and was sure to get a “claim”. She told Mrs Birling that she had been married but her husband had “deserted” her, leaving her with no money. However Mrs Birling began “questioning” her and Mrs Birling soon “broke” her. Eva told Mrs Birling about Eric, however she never revealed his name to Mrs Birling.
Mr Birling didn’t believe her, due to the fact that Eva used Mrs Birling’s name which made Mrs Birling “prejudice” against her. Mrs Birling used her “influence” to get the committee to “refuse” Eva’s claim. Eva was refused help and was turned down once again apart from this was the last time. Mrs Birling refused to accept responsibility because she feel she’s did nothing wrong and only Eva had “herself to blame”. In conclusion I feel everyone is equally responsible for the death of Eva Smith. Even if alone each thing each person did to Eva didn’t affect her too greatly, together they caused the death of two people, Eva and her unborn child.
The Birling family must have driven Eva so far into depression that Eva believed that there was no point of her child being born and have to live the life she did. However it may seem obvious that it was the Birling family that was mainly to blame for the death of Eva Smith, but if you look into the background of the novella it is actually the Birling’s social “class you need to blame. This is because people of the Middle Class in 1912 looked down on the Lower Class and treated them harshly just as they did with Eva. Moreover I believe this is who J B Priestly is trying to blame but he has portrayed it through the Birling family.