An Inspector Calls


Act Two, continued

Summary Act Two, continued

Thus Sybil unwittingly repelled the charitable request for her own grandchild. Sybil appears unmoved by this, even when the Inspector and Sheila remind her of the fact. Sybil notes that, as a matter of procedure, the charitable organization was correct in withholding its money from Eva/Daisy. But the Inspector urges Sybil to consider that there is more to the case than procedure. In other words, Sybil might have added human emotional connection as a factor in helping the girl. But Sybil will have none of this, and even after learning that Eric was the father of the child, she still believes that the charity ought to deny petitions from people it considers unsavory or unworthy of help.

Here, the Inspector has turned Arthur’s maxim against them. Arthur believes that people should only help their families and themselves. But without realizing it, Sybil has directly harmed her family out of a belief that the Eva/Daisy had no relation to her. In a society where people care only for their immediate friends and loved ones, the Inspector implies that these sorts of tragedies can occur. People die because the people closest to them give them no time, no effort, no consideration. That humans care more for some people than for others is natural, but that should not prevent anyone, the Inspector says, from thinking about the common good as much as they can.

Eric is the play’s “wild card,” a character whose presence is difficult to characterize and explain. His drunkenness makes his own actions hard even for Eric to remember. He stumbles back into the home at the end of Act Two, hoping perhaps to go to bed. But he is instead confronted with an entire relationship he barely remembers or understands. Eric does little to hide what he knows, at this point, to be his guilt in the matter, as will be taken up in Act Three. But Eric’s descent throughout the play thus far has been a precipitous one. His drinking in Act One has become heavier and has been revealed to be a pattern. And that drinking has resulted in a dissipation that only added to Eva/Daisy’s troubles, which have led, of course, to her demise. Even as Arthur and Sybil alternately make excuses for Eric’s behavior and try to think about him as little as possible, they realize at the end of Act Two that Eric is at the center of the night’s predicament.