Gerald met Eva at the Stalls Bar, a place were prostitutes look for work. She caught his eye as soon as he walked in. ‘She’d better let me take her out of there’. Gerald tries to make out he was doing a good deed by talking the girl away. He gave her shelter and visits regularly whilst supposedly being at work. He eventually decides to leave her but gives her enough money for the year. Unlike Mr and Mrs Birling, Gerald shows two sides to his character. Early in the play he gives away his bad side, while Birling is being asked why he sacked Eva in the first place. ‘I know we’d have done the same thing’.
This shows how cold-hearted he is and that he puts business and profit before people. But, he does take Eva’s death to heart. He becomes ‘rather more upset about this business than I’m letting on’. After the interrogation is over his concern is there for all to see, he takes a break to reflect on his actions. However once they work out it was not a real inspector he brightens up considerably and shows that he has failed to learn his lesson. Therefore he will not act any differently the second time around. Eric met Eva at the Palace bar. He was drunk at the time and therefore did not treat her with any respect.
At the beginning of the play Eric shares the same selfish views on responsibility as his father. But he quickly changes his mind as the facts start to come out. ‘Why shouldn’t they try for higher wages? You said yourself she was a good worker’. Eric begins to question his father and even at this early stage he shows that he has compassion and care for others. He feels heartfelt sympathy for Eva and he is able to put himself in her position. But even when the situation changes and they realise that it wasn’t a real inspector Eric remains adamant that he was right to change his opinion on responsibility.
‘Whoever that chap was, the fact remains that I did what I did. And mother did what she did. And the rest of you did what you did’. Eric is now showing that he feels responsible for what has happened and will have the opportunity to correct mistakes if a similar situation arises. A happy, gay atmosphere at the start of the play is quickly turned sour upon the Inspector’s arrival. Sheila’s celebrations of her proposed marriage are halted when she realises it was her who got Eva sacked from Millward’s. She pleads ‘because I was in a furious temper’ she had the right do speak to the manager and cause Eva’s dismissal.
This suggests that Sheila is spoilt and demands her own way all of the time, however she is shocked to hear the circumstances of Eva’s death and became disturbed as the interrogation continued. Like Eric, once all of the revelations concluded she understood the Inspector stance regarding responsibility. ‘You began to learn something. And you’ve stopped. You’re ready to go on in the same old way’. She irritated and disgusted with her family and forces them to consider their actions. Essentially though, she has learned her lesson and like Eric, she new moral when the event reoccurs.
Eva is described as ‘lively…charming… with soft brown hair’. This instantly captures an image of an attractive young girl and makes us feel sympathy for her, which is exactly what Priestley wants. She is Priestley’s representation of the working class. It is unlikely she is real because each one of the Birling’s is shown a different photo of her or no photo at all. But it is irrelevant whether Eva is real or not because the Birling’s still behaved the way they did. The whole family’s actions are the cause of Eva’s death however the message about responsibility the Inspector presents is only take on board by Eric and Sheila.
In conclusion, Priestley clearly gets across his message of responsibility towards others in the play. A clever script cunningly executed points out Priestley’s views to the audience. ‘Responsibility’ is the focal point of the play and is consistently addressed at the end of each interrogation, but the Birlings fail to recognise this. Only Sheila and Eric will act differently when the event is repeated according to Ouspenksky’s theory of time. The others though are destined to the same fete and will face the same treatment over and over again until they understand the message of responsibility the Inspector is teaching.