The question asked was: Who, in your opinion, is most responsible for the death of Eva Smith. Use evidence from the text to justify your answer. The best way to answer this question is to firstly find out what each person did to contribute to the death of Eva Smith due to this play being very ironic. All the characters involved in this play are responsible, in some way, to the death of Eva Smith but the task is to find out who gave her the final push to commit suicide.
The first person that seems to be responsible for the death of Eva Smith was Mr. Birling. He was the owner of a mill and hired Eva Smith to work there. He admitted that she worked well but had to make her redundant due to her asking for an increase in wages and protesting against Mr. Birling not giving her a rise. “We were paying the usual rates and if they didn’t like those rates, they could go work somewhere else. It’s a free country,” says Mr. Birling.
From Mr. Birling’s actions it does not seem to be the responsibility of Mr. Birling for the death of Eva Smith. He was looking at the best interests of his firm and it his firm would not run very efficiently with a troublemaker. I also think he is not responsible because Eva Smith must have thought of the consequences of protesting against low wages.
The next person that seemed to be responsible for the death of Eva Smith was Sheila Birling. After Eva Smith was made redundant from the mills she managed to get a job at Milwards, a respectable upper class department store. Sheila complained to the manager of Milwards because Eva Smith giggled at her when she was trying on a hat.
I think that Sheila’s action of complaining to the manager of Milwards can be justified. Sheila was jealous of Eva being prettier that herself and she used her superiority from being of an upper class family to fire Eva Smith which I think, to certain degree, is very unfair. Although Eva Smith was made redundant once again I think that Sheila did contribute to the death of Eva Smith but is not the most responsible person. When Sheila went shopping that day at Milwards she was prepared to pay for the best service and she did not receive it and thus complained which I think can be justified. Later in the text Sheila admitted that she would have never complained if she knew that Eva would have been fired.
After the incident at Milwards Eva Smith met a young man called Gerald who, at that time, was dating Sheila Birling. They both had a short-term romance. After seeing each other they thought it best to stop meeting for several reasons, one being that Gerald was engaged to Sheila. Gerald gave some money to Eva after they broke up and that is where the romance finished.
I think that Gerald contributed in no way towards the death of Eva Smith because this romance in no way could have effected Eva. I think this because it was the decision of both of them to stop the romance and could not have done either of them any harm. I think the opposite, that this romance was good for Eva Smith because it would have raised her morale knowing that she could, someday, settle down with a charming young man. The relationship could have done Eva good because when the broke up Gerald gave Eva some money to “See her through the year.” Gerald also says, “She knew it wouldn’t last” proving that it was just a temporary affair that both people knew would not last.
After Eva Smith met Gerald, she met Eric Birling who was a single man. They saw each other for a considerable period of time and were serious about each other. This romance went to such a degree that Eva Smith got pregnant and after this point they decided to end their relationship. Eric gave Eva Smith a considerably large amount of money and then left her to fend for herself. But Eric didn’t know Eva Smith was pregnant.
The relationship that Eva Smith and Eric Birling had was a very serious one and there seemed to be nothing wrong with it apart from the pregnancy. Eva Smith must have known that this relationship would have been like any other ones she had had before and it might not work out between the two of them. It is because of this that I think that their relationship had a minor role in contributing to the death of Eva Smith. I still think that their relationship was only significant in the way that Eva Smith got pregnant. In my opinion Eric would have helped Eva Smith out more financially if he knew he had a child with Eva Smith. The pregnancy would have worried Eva Smith a lot because how could she raise a child with no father?
It was this worry that made Eva Smith seek assistance from a help committee that was run by Mrs. Birling. She did not provide any help to Eva Smith because she used the name of Mrs. Birling. This infuriated the real Mrs. Birling and because of this persuaded all the members of the committee not to provide any financial or emotional support to Eva Smith. “I looked into the claims made by this girl and they did not seem to be very good so I used my influence to refuse her case,” says Mrs. Birling.
From all the evidence it is obvious that Mrs. Birling was the main culprit of the suicide of Eva Smith. Eva Smith needed support after all the troubles that she had faced with and as a last resort she turned to Mrs. Birling’s help committee. She must have though that she was not needed after the help committee refused to help her. She must have thought that all her troubles would never have been solved and decided to take her own life. All this was due to the foolishness of Mrs. Birling. Even though everyone played a minor role in leading Eva to take her own life Mrs. Birling did not show the slightest bit of remorse unlike the other people that played a minor role towards her death. This gave me the image of Mrs. Birling being a very cold lady. Eva Smith’s whole life fell apart because she had no money, no morale support and a child to take care of alone and in my opinion she deserved a lot of help.