Blame for Eva Smith's Tragedy: Society?

In this essay I will explain who I feel is most responsible for Eva Smith’s death, by examining each character’s contribution to the tragedy. I will also illustrate to what extent her death can be blamed on the society she lived in. In 1912 the society in which Eva Smith lived was very strict with a class system that split England up into wealthy and poor people with no classes dividing them. The sailing of the titanic was one of the feature points for that year.

The navy was unchallenged and there were no help from the state to support the poor, no DHSS or NHS and the average life expectancy was around 46.

There were advances in technology mass media being one, the developing of motorcars was introduced but only available for those who were rich enough to afford one. Trade unions had also started to gain power in the society, there were strikes from coal miners about work costs and conditions and the campaign for women’s rights had begun.

I will demonstrate what I think Mr Arthur Birling had to do with the death. He is a pompous, self-serving business man who seems to have a high opinion of himself. Mr Birling states ‘for lower costs and higher prices’. From this quote you can tell that all he is interested in is his business, money and himself and couldn’t care less about anyone or anything.

He also says ‘I gather that there is a very good chance of knight hood’ this also tells us he is snobby and vain, and thinks his stature and class make him the best and his knighthood is what he really cares about.

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When the Inspector starts to ask him questions about Eva Smith he seems to remember her quite well and gives the Inspector a lot of information about her, he even said himself that ‘she was a good worker…. And was told by the leading operator in his factory that she was ready for promotion. He told the Inspector that it all started to go wrong for her when she came back from holiday in August, he said that her attitude had changed quite dramatically and she seemed rather restless within herself. Then out of no-where Eva and a group of girls asked Mr Birling for a pay rise of twelve and a half shillings, so that they could average twenty-five shillings a week.

He had refused their demand and told them that it was ‘a free country… and if they wanted to go and work somewhere else they could. He basically was telling them they were sacked and to go and find another job. The women then decided to go on strike but as Mr Birling told us that the strike didn’t last for long maybe a week or two, as they were all broke. At this time there were no work benefits so the workers had no help and just did what they were told to do. There was a class system and because the workers were lower class they had to respect their superiors i. e. their bosses. That was the last Mr Birling had seen or heard of Eva smith. I feel that Mr Birling is mainly to blame, as he had started a chain of reactions from sacking Eva. Sheila Birling. She is a pretty young girl in her early twenties; she is also well educated and has a rather pleasant and excited outlook on life.

You can tell this from the beginning of the book, where the family are having dinner, Sheila’s language and behaviour shows us that she was brought up in a high class way, the words she uses also state this like ‘I should jolly well think not’ and she refers to her parents as ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’. Just from these two quotes it shows you that she has be taught proper English, she uses this throughout out the book. This also relates to class, as your upbringing depended on what class you where from. At first Sheila acts innocent and concerned as she is unaware of whom they are talking about. She thinks her dad is responsible for the girl’s death as he had taken her job away from her. Shelia is obviously concerned as she starts to ask the Inspector questions like ‘what was she like, quite young? … ‘ And when the Inspector tells her how old she was she asks the Inspector more questions like was she ‘pretty? …

The name Eva Smith pops up again but still Sheila doesn’t realise who it is, Sheila asks the Inspector what happened to the girl, after her Father had sacked her. The Inspector tells her that she had gone to work in a shop called Milwards a shop that Sheila had been going to of late. They carry on talking about Eva’s time at Milwards and then Sheila starts to realise that she might have met and had something to do with this girls death, so she asks the Inspector what she looked like. The Inspector took out a photograph from his pocket and showed it to Sheila, she noticed the face of this girl from one day at Milwards.

Sheila then told the Inspector and the others what had happened between them. After Sheila tells the Inspector this she feels totally to blame and gets upset ‘and if I could help her now I would’ this shows us that Sheila is sorry even though she is too late. But when the Inspector starts to ask more questions she then realises that her Father and her weren’t the only ones who had something to do with this girl. But out of all the characters she is the only person to show emotion towards Eva so I think that Sheila is still partly to blame but only due to her actions in Milwards. Now I will write about Gerald Croft, he is an attractive, well-bred chap about thirty and is the ‘man-about-town’.

He met Eva when she had changed her name to Daisy Renton in the Stalls bar at the Palace Variety Theatre he said that ‘I went down to the bar for a drink’ this shows he had no intentions of meeting anyone, only to have a nice quite drink he also claimed that Daisy looked ‘young, fresh and charming’ and he saw that Alderman Meggarty had wedged her into a corner with his ‘obscene fat carcass… this girl had given him a look as though it was a cry for help, he decide to go and tell Alderman Meggarty that the manager had a message for him and him and girl then left. The night didn’t end there though because they went onto the County Hotel a quieter place to drink, Eva didn’t get drunk as it says ‘she only had a port and lemonade’ which also shows that he never got her drunk and had no thought of to either.

Here’s where they arranged to meet again. Gerald allowed Daisy to survive a little longer. He was very generous to Daisy, providing her with enough money to survive and also free accommodation. Although he did eventually desert her, Daisy was prepared for this as their classes were very different Gerald was a wealthy upper class man and she was a lower class working women, in that time people were expected to know their place in society, so people from different classes were not allowed to get involved with each other as they would have been frowned upon by people in power due to the class system, and it was not as big a blow as her dismissal thanks to Sheila or the consequences of her later relationship with Eric. I believe that his initial intentions were good and he did not set out to have Daisy as his mistress, only wishing to free her from old Joe Meggarty – ”

A notorious womaniser”. Gerald explains that after he had rescued her, he deliberately met Daisy a second time “I discovered, not that night but… ” Throughout this explanation Sheila seems relatively calm, considering the situation. She often adds sarcastic remarks such as “Well we didn’t think he meant Buckingham Palace”. As already stated, I do not consider Gerald played a major part in Eva’s death but still contributed to it. When questioned by the Inspector, Mrs Sybil Birling immediately proclaims her innocence, denying she had anything to do with Eva Smith or Daisy Renton. The Inspector seems to carry out his duties in a most unusual manner and although the rest of the family seem quite aware of this, Mrs Birling seems totally unaware of his methods. Initially she is relaxed with an easy tone but after continual interruptions by Sheila with phrases like “Mother, stop! she becomes very agitated wanting to prove her innocence.

At one point she tries to intimidate the Inspector, in a similar manner to that of her husband, by commenting on the fact that they are upper class to get at the Inspector “You know of course that my husband was Lord Mayor only two years ago… ” this shows that she knows that she is going to have to explain what happened between her and Eva so she tries in every possible manner to outwit the Inspector. Mrs Birling should have been less hasty in her judgement of Eva. Because she hadn’t even met the girl and by giving her a second chance she could have saved the girls life. But Mrs Birling judged her on first impressions and I think that for a woman of her stature to do a thing like that is wrong. She should have know not to ‘Judge a book by its cover’ but have at least talked to her before making a judgement on that note I think that this could have been the point that threw Eva over the edge and made her want to kill herself. Finally Eric, a man in his early twenties not a relaxed person half shy and half assertive.

He is the person I believe to carry most of the blame; he could have been more honourable in many respects. (Like he could have ask her to marry him even though the class system wouldn’t have allowed it, he shouldn’t of stole money to give to her as this was the wrong way to give her some money, he shouldn’t have got drunk and had a one night stand in the first place as this was frowned upon in the middle and upper classes. This was because the superiors thought that there shouldn’t a mix in classes and they should be kept apart and to stay that way. When he comes in he knows that everybody knows about his relationship with Eva but still he asks who told his mother this and blames it on Sheila by saying ‘ you told her. Why you little sneak! ‘… This shows that he is trying to make out that what he had done with Eva had not come from his lips and so therefore wasn’t one hundred percent true.

I think that Eric is a sneaky person and the next quote shows this as his Father asks him ‘where did you get fifty pounds from? ‘ This tells us that he had not told his Father about taking the money. He also thought that he could let Eva survive on the stolen money, but this soon changed when Eva found out and started to refuse it. When the Inspector questions him about the money he begins to try and cover his tracks as when the question ‘you mean-you stole the money? ‘ gets asked he replies ‘not really’ and tells the Inspector that he ‘intended to pay it back’… This tells us that he has lied and is now trying to cover it up. Once everything about Eric’s and the others encounters with Eva had come out the Inspector decides to leave.

Leaving them in a muddle blaming the girl’s death on each other. Although Eva was partly responsible for her own downfall, others were also to blame and to a certain extent, she was also a victim of circumstances in the society in which she lived. At the end of the day I cannot prove which character is most responsible for Eva Smith’s death because they all have equally contributed to it. Arthur, Sheila, Gerald, Eric and Sybil are all as responsible as one another.

Not at any point in Eva’s life did either of them take her feelings into consideration but continued to carry out their own lives, not caring for anyone except from themselves. In all Honesty I truly think that Mr Birling is the character to blame as if he never sacked Eva in the first place, then the chain of events that followed would have never happened and Eva would never have committed suicide. I feel that I have shown that everybody in the Birling household and Gerald Croft were partly to blame for Eva Smith’s death. As well the society in which she lived plays a major part in her tragedy.

I think that throughout the book the author is trying to put this idea across in his amazing portrayal of what could happen if we do not act as a community but as individuals. Her death was provoked by a chain of events that started with her getting sacked from two jobs then being deserted, used for sex, and then to be turned away from a helping charity. These events built up enough pressure to make her kill herself, as she did not have anything left to aim for, no job, money, turned away from help and no one to love. If Mr Birling hadn’t of sacked her in the first place, then none of these other events would have happened.

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Blame for Eva Smith's Tragedy: Society?. (2017, Oct 12). Retrieved from

Blame for Eva Smith's Tragedy: Society?
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