Plot notes

  • Created by: emmak10
  • Created on: 04-04-17 10:10


-Written and first performed in 1946 but set in 1912- this allows Priestley to use dramatic irony. In 1912, there were rigid class and gender boundaries which appeared to ensure nothing would change but by 1946 it had.

-The setting allows Priestley to emphasise differences in the classes, the generations and gender roles in Edwardian England.

-Priestley was a socialist who wanted to pioneer ‘morality’ in politics. He fought in WW1 and when he came home he wanted a ‘New England’ where all men were equal and wealth was shared more evenly. He was involved in setting up the Welfare State, e.g. the NHS


The play is based on the suicide of a working class girl, Eva Smith/Daisy Renton. The Inspector arrives to show the family that all their actions have consequences and reveal their part in the girl’s suicide- The Inspector reveals that she “died in the infirmary” after “she’d swallowed a lot of strong disinfectant” and was in “great agony”.  

Characters involvement with Eva Smith/Daisy Renton:

As well as helping to move the plot along, Priestley uses the characters involvement and response to the suicide to reveal some more of their character traits and personality.

Mr Birling: Inspector Goole shows Birling the photograph of Eva Smith and he recognises her because she was “one of (his) employees and then (he) discharged her … nearly two years ago… end of September nineteen-ten”. Mr Birling thinks that because of how long ago this matter was “it has nothing to do with the wretched girl’s suicide” (note the use of wretched- either a word to show pity or a mild swear word, Mr Birling never shows pity towards Eva so he is using it as a swear word). Shortly after, Mr Birling reveals the full story of Eva’s sacking: she was a “good worker” and she was in line for a promotion but she was part of a group of girls who “wanted the rates raised” from “twenty-two and six” to “twenty-five shillings a week”. Mr Birling “refused, of course” because he was paying “the usual rates” and he feels it is his “duty to keep labour costs down”. The girls “went on strike” and when they came back Mr Birling sacked the “four- or five ringleaders” including Eva.

Sheila: After her job at Mr Birling’s works, Eva managed to get a job in Milwards “at the beginning of December that year” because “there was a good deal of influenza”. However, she got sacked from this job as well because “a customer complained about her”- this is Sheila. When Sheila is shown the photo, she “recognises it with a little cry, gives a half-stifled sob, and then runs out”- she is very sorry for what she has done. Sheila explains she “went to the manager at Milwards and (she) told him if they didn’t get rid of that girl, (she’d) never go the place again and (she’d) persuade mother to close (their) account with them” (Sheila and Mrs…


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