An Inspector Calls - Plot

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Act One

  • The Birling family and Gerald Croft are celebrating Sheila's engagement to Gerald.
  • Mr Birling makes pompous speeches outlining his views on the advances in science, new inventions and the relationship between bosses and workers, and saying they should ignore the "cranks" who claim everybody has a responsiblity to care for everybody else.
  • The evening is interrupted by the arrival of a police inspector names Goole making enquiries about the suicide of a young woman, Eva Smith.
  • Mr Birling is shown a photograph of the girl and admits he employed her in his factory but sacked her for being one of the leaders of a strike for higher wages.
  • Sheila and Eric both feel their father has acted harshly, while Gerald supports Mr Birling's claim that he acted reasonably.
  • Sheila is shown a photograph and she realises that, driven by jealously and ill temper, she later had the girl sacked from her job as a shop assistant at Milwards.
  • When Gerald hears the girl changed her name to Daisy Renton, his reaction shows he too has known the girl.
  • The Inspector suggests that many people share responsibility for the misery which prompted Eva Smith/Daisy Renton to end her life.
  • Left alone with Gerald, Sheila warns him not to try to hide anything from the Inspector.
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Act Two

  • Gerald admits he had met Daisy Renton in the sprig of the previous year and that she was his mistress for six months.
  • Sheila is hurt and angry at Gerald's involvement with the girl, yet she feels a certain respect for the openness of his admission.
  • Mrs Birling tries to bully the Inspector and to control events.
  • Sheila realises that the Inspector's enquiries are well founded, and that her mother might also have had some dealings with the girl.
  • While Eric is out of the room, Mrs Birling is forced to admit the girl asked for the help of a charity that she worked for and was refused.
  • It is revealed that the girl was pregnant, and Mrs Birling lays the blame for the girl's death on the father of the unborn child.
  • There is a suspicion that Eric might have been the father of that unborn child.
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Act Three

  • Eric confesses that he got the girl pregnant and that he stole money from his father's firm to support her.
  • Learning that the girl had appealed to his mother for help and been turned down, Eric blames his mother for the girl's death.
  • The Insepctor makes a dramatic speech about the consequences of the sort of social irresponsibility that Mr Birling was preaching at the end of the dinner.
  • The Inspector, having shown that each had a part in ruining the girl's life, leaves.
  • Between them Gerald and Mr Birling gradually prove that the man was not really a police inspector.
  • A telephone call to the Cheif Constable establishes there is no recent suicide.
  • Eric and Sheila continue to feel guilty about what they have done, but the others now shrug off any guilt.
  • Mr Birling answers the phone: a young woman has just died on her way to the Infirmary and an inspector is on his way to make enquiries.
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