Note: Inspector’s departure to end of play
Arthur says that Eric is primarily at fault for the family’s situation. Arthur worries that there will be a “public scandal” made of the family’s relationship to Eva Smith’s death. Eric criticizes Arthur for worrying about his potential knighthood, considering that Eva/Daisy is dead. Sheila also criticizes Arthur and Sybil, and says that in thinking about their reputations, they are trying to move beyond Eva/Daisy’s suicide and pretend that nothing terrible happened. Eric reminds Arthur of the speech Arthur gave to Gerald and Eric, before the Inspector’s arrival, about how men should “look out for themselves first.” Sheila, upon hearing this and the Inspector’s parting words, wonders if he is a legitimate police inspector after all.
Eric and Sheila agree that, even if the Inspector was not really a public servant, he interrogated the family and found out their complex relationship to Eva’s death. Eric and Sheila agree that he did “inspect” them. But Arthur, realizing that perhaps Inspector Goole is not a genuine inspector, says that this difference is crucially important. For if the Inspector was not acting officially, the family’s collective guilt cannot be made into a “public scandal,” and there will be no impact on Arthur’s business reputation or on his knighthood. Arthur accuses Sybil, Eric, and Sheila of being susceptible to the Inspector’s bluffing, as the Inspector tricked them into revealing all they knew. Arthur believes that the Inspector is a “socialist” and a “crank.”
Edna, the maid, announces that Gerald is back, and he enters the room. Gerald says he has run into a police sergeant during his walk outside, and the sergeant tells him there is no officer in Brumley named Inspector Goole. Gerald concludes that the Inspector was a fraud, and Arthur agrees, saying that the family has been “hoaxed.” Arthur begins thinking through the damage done, and hastily concludes that, if the family can keep the night’s proceedings a secret, their reputations will not be harmed. Sheila and Eric dispute this. Sheila asks everyone in the family to consider his or her part in Eva/Daisy’s suicide, and she again castigates Arthur for pretending the events of the night were entirely unreal, even as the characters’ revelations of wrongdoing are authentic. Arthur phones the police force, confirming there is no Inspector Goole. Gerald admits that he really did have an affair, that he was not lying to the Inspector. Eric says he wants to leave the family and travel far away from them. But Arthur says that Eric must work for the family business to pay back the money he stole.
Gerald reasons that, because no characters saw Eva/Daisy’s photo simultaneously, and because of the frequent changes of her name, the family members might not actually be speaking about the same woman. Their actions each would have been true as reported, but the common link between them the Inspector might have faked. Arthur calls the local hospital and verifies that no suicide has been brought in for weeks. Arthur is now convinced that the Inspector has utterly tricked the family. He believes that since no one died, the family members’ actions are not so grave.
Sheila protests that Arthur is trying even more concertedly to cover up the revelations of the evening. Arthur says he has no interest in doing so, but Eva/Daisy’s “unreal” death changes everything. Sheila disagrees, saying that the family members each behaved uncharitably and that the actuality of Eva/Daisy’s death should have nothing to do with the calculation of the immorality of their actions. Sheila tells Arthur that he “began to learn something, but now [he’s] stopped.” The phone rings, and Arthur relays to the family that a girl has just been transported to the hospital, dead, “after swallowing some disinfectant.” As the curtain falls, Arthur announces that a police inspector is headed to the house to interrogate the family. All on stage are shocked.
The end of the play is a source of much productive disagreement. Arthur blames his son Eric as the primary cause of Eva/Daisy’s and the family’s misfortune. But Eric points out that all share the blame, and Sheila notes this, too. Sheila is the most willing to accept what she has done and becomes increasingly unmoored as she realizes that Arthur and Sybil want only to pretend that the night has not happened at all.