Search Menu

An Inspector Calls

J. B. Priestley

Contents

Act Three

Act Three

Note: Beginning of Act Three to Inspector’s departure

Summary

With Eric back in the room, Sheila points out what all the characters now kno that Sybil’s speech against the father of Eva/Daisy’s child will force her to condemn Eric’s actions. Sheila notes that Eric is an alcoholic, and Eric admits that he was very drunk the first night he met the girl, although Eric does not supply the name with which she introduced herself to him. On the Inspector’s goading, Eric admits to beginning an affair with the girl, after following her back from the bar one night, and convincing her to let him into her room. Eric relates that, after several such meetings, the girl tells him that she is pregnant, and that she will need financial support for the unborn child. To provide the money, Eric swindles Arthur’s company, cashing out receipts without returning the payments to the office. Arthur is furious when he hears this, and Eric realizes that the truth of his theft and relationship are out.

With the family in a state of anguish, the Inspector goes from Birling to Birling, blaming them each in turn for a share of the guilt regarding Eva/Daisy’s suicide. The Inspector repudiates Arthur for firing her, Sheila for getting her fired again, Gerald and Eric for having illicit relationships with her, and Sybil for refusing aid when Eva was pregnant. Before leaving the house in a flourish, the Inspector tells the Birlings that all people are “one body,” and that people must help and look out for one another if society is to survive. He says that the Birlings and Gerald must now live with their actions for the rest of their lives as recompense for Eva/Daisy, who has lost hers. The Inspector leaves.

Analysis

Eric’s revelation is twofold. At this point, the audience knows that Eric has most likely had an affair with the same Eva/Daisy that Gerald has. But his theft is a new revelation, even though it was foreshadowed when Sybil hints that Eva/Daisy petitioned the charity because she could no longer take stolen money from the father of the child. Nevertheless, Arthur and Sybil are particularly upset at the idea that Eric has defrauded the company, even if this money was used to support a girl and child to whom he owed a great deal. Arthur believes that Eric’s theft must be answered for, and that Eric’s behavior is the most likely to tip all these events into “public scandal,” which Arthur fears above all else.

The Inspector’s closing speech is important for several reasons. First, it advances his politics most clearly, although the Inspector stops short of explicitly saying that he is a socialist, and that the Birlings and Gerald ought to become socialists, too. But the Inspector’s motivations do seem to have to do with a critique of the capitalist system that Arthur advances, in which families are left to fend for themselves. The Inspector believes that it is exactly this system that has caused Eva/Daisy to die, and that, in order for the world to change, this economic system must change too, or be replaced.

As a link to the play’s performance history, its debut in the USSR in 1946 would have informed how audiences understood the Inspector’s speech. In an immediate post-World War Two and Soviet context, the Inspector’s argument would have sounded very much like the state’s rationale for collectivization of property, and for the demonization of the ownership classes. In an English context soon after, the Inspector might sound more moderate, for he is not actually advocating an overthrow of the government. Thus, the Inspector’s words are both socialist enough to make him and the playwright seem sympathetic to the socialist cause, but they are not so overtly partisan as to demand a specific course of action.

More Help

Previous Next
Incorrect Questions

by MrRetno, May 25, 2017

Question 20: Arthur calls the Hospital, but receives a call from the police.
Question 25: Guilt is most definitely a theme in the play; business loans are not.

1 Comments

4 out of 7 people found this helpful

essay help

by LeonMcMillen, July 31, 2017

I had to take this research class in senior year and I’m going to be honest with you, senioritis hit me hard. I could not bring myself to write the term paper for that class so I ordered it online from this website called

https://digitalessay.net

. The research paper turned out very well (it was supposed to be long and complicated) and the teacher was really impressed with it. I got an A and everyone was happy.

mistake

by qwerty1234lol, October 27, 2017

you missed out Sybil birling even though she is an important character
here is some stuff

Mrs Birling is being very arrogant, it is clear that she thinks that she is right "Secondly, I blame the young man" shows that she also has a very ignorant point of view. She brings class into her argument, suggesting that because 'he didn’t belong to her class' then 'that's all the more reason why he shouldn't escape'. Here she suggests that just because the boy might be from a higher class than the pregnant Eva Smith, then the pregnancy... Read more

0 Comments

11 out of 11 people found this helpful