An Inspector Calls

by: J. B. Priestley

Eva Smith/Daisy Renton

A character who does not appear onstage in the play, but who is the absent figure around which the action spins. She is referred to as Eva Smith, Daisy Renton, and “Mrs. Birling.” She may be a combination of these young women, or a different person, or a fiction. Whether she is real or not, Eva/Daisy is a stand-in for the girls that Arthur, Sybil, Sheila, Eric, and Gerald have wronged, either separately or together. Eva/Daisy worked for a low wage, and Arthur fired her for attempting a strike. Sheila had her fired for impertinence. Eric and Gerald both had affairs with her, and though Gerald cared for her, Eric’s relationship to her was more vexed, and required him to steal money for her. If Eva/Daisy is a real person, as the last phone call suggests, then the family’s guilt might really knot them together. But if she is not one person, and rather a set of people, this makes her no less substantial as an organizational principle for the work. Priestley demonstrates how selfish, or economically motivated, or jealous behavior can ruin people’s lives. Eva/Daisy is the lesson each character must learn individually.