An Inspector Calls PDF - Overview
An Inspector Calls is a play written by English dramatist J. B. Priestley, first performed in the Soviet Union in 1945 and at the New Theatre in London the following year. It is one of Priestley’s best-known works for the stage and is considered to be one of the classics of mid-20th century English theatre. The play’s success and reputation were boosted by a successful revival by English director Stephen Daldry for the National Theatre in 1992 and a tour of the UK in 2011–2012.
The play is a three-act drama which takes place on a single night in April 1912, sometime between 1-7 April, focusing on the prosperous upper middle-class Birling family, who live in a comfortable home in the fictional town of Brumley, “an industrial city in the north Midlands”. The family is visited by a man calling himself Inspector Goole, who questions the family about the suicide of a young working-class woman in her mid-twenties. Long considered part of the repertory of classic drawing-room theatre.
An Inspector Calls
Summary of An Inspector Calls
At the Birlings’ home in the industrial town of Brumley, Arthur Birling, a wealthy factory owner and local politician, celebrates his daughter Sheila’s engagement to a rival magnate’s son, Gerald Croft. Also in attendance are Arthur’s wife Sybil and their son Eric (whose drinking problem the family discreetly ignores).
Following dinner, Arthur lectures them on the importance of self-reliance and looking after one’s own, and talks of the bright future that awaits them (which, he believes, will include a place for himself on the next honours list). The evening is interrupted by the arrival of a man calling himself Inspector Goole, who is investigating the suicide of a young woman named Eva Smith.
Her diary, the Inspector explains, refers to members of the Birling family. Goole produces a photograph of Eva and shows it to Arthur, who acknowledges that she worked in one of his mills. He admits that he dismissed her from Birling and Co. some two years ago for her involvement in an abortive workers’ strike, but denies responsibility for her death.
After prompting from Goole, Sheila admits to recognising Eva too; she had contrived to have her fired from her job in a local department store over an imagined slight. Her real motivation, Sheila ashamedly confesses, was the jealousy that she felt towards the younger, prettier woman.
At the mention of Eva’s alias “Daisy Renton”, Gerald is noticeably startled, and admits to having met a woman by that name in the Palace Bar (a notorious haunt of local prostitutes). Seeing that “Daisy” was penniless and hungry, he gave her money and arranged for her to move temporarily into a vacant flat belonging to one of Gerald’s friends. Goole forces Gerald to reveal that Eva later became his mistress.
To Eva, he was “the most important person in her life”, but they parted after a few months. Arthur and Sybil are horrified, and Sheila returns her engagement ring to Gerald, who leaves briefly. Goole turns to Sybil next, whom he identifies as the head of a women’s charity which the pregnant and destitute Eva later turned to for help. Sybil, however, convinced the committee to deny her application for financial aid.
Despite vigorous cross-examination from Goole, she denies any wrongdoing. Goole then plays his final card, making Sybil lay the blame at the feet of the “drunken young man” who got Eva pregnant. Eric then enters, and after brief questioning from Goole, breaks down and admits responsibility for the pregnancy, having forced himself on Eva after a drinking spree at the Palace Bar.
He took funds from his father’s business in order to support her and the child, but she refused the stolen money. Eric is stricken with remorse for his actions. Arthur and Sybil are outraged by Eric’s behaviour, and the evening dissolves into angry recriminations.
Goole’s questioning has revealed that each person present that evening had contributed in some way to Eva’s eventual despondency and suicide. He reminds the Birlings that actions have consequences and that all people are intertwined in one society. As Goole leaves he warns the family that “If men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish” – an allusion to the impending war.
Gerald returns, and tells the family of his growing suspicion that there may in fact be no “Inspector Goole” on the police force. Arthur makes a call to the chief constable, who confirms this. Learning from a second call by Arthur to the infirmary that no recent cases of suicide have been reported, the family surmise that the Inspector was a fraud and that they have been the victims of a hoax.
Gerald and the elder Birlings celebrate in relief, but Eric and Sheila still feel guilty over their past conduct, and resolve to change their ways. However Mr Birling then receives a phone call, from which he learns that a young woman has just died at the infirmary in a suspected suicide, and that the police are on their way to question the family.
Goole’s true identity is left unexplained, but it is clear that the family’s confessions over the course of the evening have all been true, and that public disgrace will soon befall them.