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Arthur Birling leads a toast to the upcoming marriage of his daughter, Sheila, and Gerald Croft. Sheila teases Gerald for being distant the previous summer, and he explains he was occupied at his father's company, a competitor to Birling and Company. Arthur advises his son, Eric, and Gerald to look out for their family and not after everybody else, as some socialists suggest. Their maid tells Arthur a police inspector wants to talk to him.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act One
The inspector, Goole, says a girl named Eva Smith has committed suicide by drinking disinfectant. Goole shows Arthur a photo, and he remembers firing Eva after she joined a strike. Sheila recognizes her as a saleswoman she got fired from the store Milward's for a silly reason. When Goole says Eva worked at Milward's as Daisy Renton, Sheila notices Gerald's shock and asks whether she was the girl he saw in the summer he claimed to be busy at work. Gerald admits having an affair with a Daisy.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act One, continued
Sybil, Arthur's wife, tells the inspector his questions are impertinent. Goole asks Gerald if he knows Daisy Renton. Gerald initially denies, but at Sheila's urging, confesses meeting Daisy/Eva at a bar, having an affair with her, and breaking up with her.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act Two
Sybil claims not to remember Eva, but Goole says Sybil had seen her at a charity organization two weeks earlier, when the pregnant girl petitioned for assistance. Sybil says the girl called herself Mrs. Birling, but later said she was not married, and couldn't take money from the child's father because it was stolen. Sybil rejected her petition. Goole says Gerald is not the child's father, so the family concludes Eric probably is.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act Two, continued
Eric admits to being drunk when he met Eva. After having an affair with her and learning she was pregnant and needed financial support, he started taking money from Arthur's company. Goole blames the entire family for each member's share of responsibility for Eva's suicide.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act Three
The family blames one another. They wonder if Goole was really an inspector and was not bluffing. When Gerald reports that a sergeant said there was no inspector named Goole, Arthur calls the police and confirms. He also calls the hospital and verifies no suicide has been brought in for weeks. As Arthur concludes that since no one died, the family's actions are not so grave, Sheila disagrees, saying they have behaved uncharitably. The phone rings and Arthur tells the family that a girl has been taken to the hospital, dead after swallowing disinfectant, and that a police inspector is coming to interrogate them.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act Three, continued