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EN: Priestley - An Inspector Calls


Arthur Birling

(Klangasssoziation zu burly = kräftig und sterling = Sterling-> brit. Währung; Geld). He’s a prosperous factory owner (businessman), his first priority is to make money& get power! He strongly believes that “a man has to make his own way”. He’s looking forward to receiving a knighthood.

He refuses to accept any responsibility for Eva’s death.

Sybil Birling

Wants to stick to the rules, concerned about manners (tells what the others shall do or not). She is only interested in the family-reputation.

She’s very conservative, old-fashioned, selfish, cold-hearted, snobbish& egoistic.


at the begin she’s snobbish, egoistic& self-confident, but in the end she thinks more clearly, critical, accepts criticism, nice, honest& responsible: she likes to change herself and feels sorry for what she had done. Her readiness to learn from experience is in a great contrast to her parents.


Start: makes jokes, behaves silly, lives an easy-going live, and doesn’t care about anything. He behaves half shy and half assertive (anmassend).

End: starts thinking, accepts his guilt, might stop drinking that much.

Gerald Croft

Is good-looking, rich& clever: man about town! He’s engaged to Sheila and also son of an industrial.

He doesn’t change lot during the story; stays a capitalist (just interested in money& profit). He seems to agree completely with Mr. Birling, quite the same attitude of live.

Inspector Goole

(Goole= Geist; spirit in death) isn’t a real inspector; more something like god because he makes them all fell guilty. His manners are quite extraordinary, rude& assertive. One of the main reasons to visit the Birling family is to make them realise, what responsibilities they have& that their behaviour has an influence on others (opposite to Mr. Birling’s moral).

Eva Smith

sprechender Name als Hinweis auf die Vertreterin der Mitmenschen schlechthin..

Short summary

This story takes place in 1912, right before the 1st World War in Brumley, an industrial city in the North Midlands (fictive town-> associations to other real industrial towns, like e.g. Bradford, Birmingham or Burnley). The B. family is celebrating Sheila’s engagement to Gerald Croft, when inspector Goole arrives and tells about a girl’s (Eva Smith) suicide. After lots of questions, it turns out that they are all, more or less responsible for this tragically death.

After the inspector left they find out that he wasn’t a real inspector and that no girl died on the way to the Infirmary, after swallowing some disinfectant!

1st Act

The family& Gerald are celebrating Gerald& Sheila’s engagement in the dining-room. Sheila& Eric are arguing in a not really serious way, while Gerald& Mr. Birling are talking about business, politic (titanic), Mr. Birling’s way into the next honour list by getting an knighthood and about Lady Croft’s (Gerald’s mother) attitude of social classes (it looks like she isn’t too happy about the fact, that her son is engaged to a girl of a lower class). Just before the ring bells& the inspector arrives, Mr. Birling shows his outlook on life, what he had learnt in the good hard school of experience to Gerald& Eric (important sentence for the rest of the story!): “...a man has to make his own way, has to look after himself and his family..”. The inspector enters and tells about the suicide. He shows a photograph to Mr.B. and starts questioning him. It turns out that Eva Smith had been one of Mr.B. employees and later on was discharged because she asked for more money, had been refused& went on a strike (as one of the ringleaders).

Sheila enters into the dining-room and gets the next to be questioned. Her fault: she had been jealous of Eva because she looked better in a specific dress. She went to the manager and told him that this girl had been very impertinent (unverschämt)…so, indirectly she made Eva lost her job.

The inspector goes on& tells that Eva Smith had changed her name into Daisy Renton. Now Gerald’s faults get cleared up. He has had an affair with her the previous summer.

Important questions& points about this act

2nd Act

Mrs Birling came along and was told that Eric often drinks. Gerald talks about his relationship towards Daisy Renton (alias Eva Smith). After that, he went out for a walk…and the inspector turns towards Mrs B., her crime: she failed her “job” as a member of the Brumley Women’s Charity Organisation by not helping deserving cases. She refused Eva’s ask for help (she was pregnant and had no money), because she don’t like her.

Important questions& points

3rd Act

Eric comes back and became the next victim of Inspector Goole: he is more or less forced to confess his relationship towards Eva. He met her first in the Palace bar (as Gerald did) and stood her a few drinks, later on he was quite drunk and they went to her lodgings. After a few more dates, Eva was going to have a baby. She didn’t want Eric to marry, so he gave her enough money to keep her going, but finally she refuses even this (because she had found out that it has been stolen). The problem about the money (about fifty pounds): Eric got it from his father’s office, without asking in advance! The inspector left- the family is arguing (parents- children) and discussing until Gerald returns and exposes the inspector as not real. And after a call to the local Infirmary (no girl has been brought in this afternoon who had committed suicide by drinking disinfectant) it’s seems clear that the whole thing had been a bluff. The family is relieved… but right then the phone rings: it’s the police, a girl had committed suicide& a inspector is on the way to ask some questions…

Important questions and points


General Things