Note: Arrival of Inspector to end of Act One
The Inspector enters, introducing himself as Goole. Arthur says he’s never heard of Goole before, despite being an Alderman, Lord Mayor, and “a member of the Bench.” The Inspector states that the two have not met. Arthur offers the Inspector a drink, and he refuses, saying he is “on duty.” The Inspector tells Arthur that a girl named Eva Smith has committed suicide that evening, after swallowing disinfectant. Eric cries out at this, and Arthur says it is difficult news to hear.
The Inspector asks Arthur if he has heard of Eva Smith. Arthur says the name might be familiar, but he isn’t sure. The Inspector shows Arthur, and Arthur alone, a photograph, and refuses to show the picture simultaneously to Eric, noting that questioning multiple people at a time would create confusion. Although Arthur is perturbed, he lets the Inspector proceed. Arthur says that he employed Eva in his factory and discharged her in September 1910. Hearing this, Gerald offers to leave, but when the Inspector says he knows that Gerald and Sheila are engaged, he asks Gerald to stay. Gerald, agitated, remains.
Arthur tells the Inspector that he dismissed Eva in a “straightforward” case. He argues that he “can’t accept responsibility” for what has happened to Eva. The Inspector counters that Arthur has initiated a “chain of events” leading to Eva’s death. Eric interjects that Arthur was saying just before the Inspector arrived that men must look out for themselves and their families, but not all society. Arthur describes why he dismissed Eva: she was the normal wage, but joined with other laborers to ask for a raise of three shillings a week. Arthur would not grant this, saying it would cut into profits. The Inspector asks Arthur why he refused, and Arthur objects to the idea that the Inspector would question his business practices. Arthur says that the workers, including Eva, went on strike, but it lasted no more than two weeks, after which the laborers were taken back on “at the old wage.” Eva, however, was not offered her job back, as punishment for initiating the strike. Gerald announces that Arthur did what he had to do, as the owner of a business.
Arthur asks the Inspector how he gets along with the Chief Constable, a man with whom Arthur is friendly. The Inspector says he does not “see much” of the Chief Constable. When Eric asks why Arthur couldn’t grant the raise, Arthur accuses Eric of being lazy. Eric responds that they do not need to speak this way with the Inspector present. Sheila enters the room, and wonders what’s the matter. The Inspector tells Sheila that a girl named Eva Smith, aged twenty-four, has killed herself, and Sheila is appalled to hear it. Sheila is also shocked to learn that Arthur fired Eva after the strike.
The Inspector begins questioning Sheila, who says she does not know anyone named Eva Smith. The Inspector tells Sheila that Eva Smith went on to work at a clothing store called Milward’s. Sheila admits to having shopped there before, and asks to see the Eva’s picture. The Inspector shows Sheila, and only Sheila, and she gasps. Arthur becomes angry that the Inspector has upset Sheila, and Sheila asks the Inspector if he knew “all along” that Sheila had interacted with Eva previously, a question the Inspector does not answer.
Sheila admits to having gotten the girl fired from Milward’s. Sheila was shopping there in January of 1911 and, after having tried on an unflattering dress, she noticed that the girl, Eva Smith, seemed to find this funny. Sheila became enraged and said she would not return to the store unless the girl, Eva, was fired. Sheila is mortified to hear that her actions might have contributed to Eva’s death. The Inspector tells the room that Eva worked at Milward’s under the name Daisy Renton, rather than Eva Smith, which is why Sheila did not recognize her name.