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IGCSE English Literature - An Inspector Calls - Eva Smith

Updated on December 21, 2015

Notes on the character of Eva Smith in An Inspector calls, suited for the IGCSE English Literature exam.

Main Points

She is an innocent character, at mercy of 'superior' people such as Sheila. 'I caught this girl smiling at Miss Francis as if to say: 'doesn't she look terrible!". Smiling being an innocent act, Priestley wanted to evoke rage in the audience with this line.

Mr Birling makes judgments about Eva and stereotypes her without even knowing her: 'girls of that class'. She appears to be a victim of her class, and is also criticized from people such as Mrs Birling for appearing 'proud' and putting on airs and graces, and for being 'impertinent', which is highly hypocritical due to Mr Birlings facade of social responsibility and awareness, incorporating the idea that he very much cares about what other people think about him, regardless of the truth. 'I've got to cover this up as soon as i can'

She is never actually seen in the play, and this could carry metaphorical connotations regarding how unimportant the working class were to the rich, regardless of her being arguably the most important character in the play.

Eva is very similar to Eve, the first woman on earth. This could show how she represents all women at that time, and overall the larger community, in conjunction with the name Smith also being very generic. This is also seemingly one of the only times the Birlings have become aware of the discrimination.

'One Eva Smith has gone, but there are millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths left with us'. Priestley used a polysyndeton and repetition to advocate the enormity of the working class and to emphasize their suffering under the feet of the richer higher class.

Her death is presented very abruptly, through the use of plosive alliteration, as if it were the end of false beliefs and hopes about there being a more fair world. 'She drank some disinfectant and died'. The plosive alliteration creates a very harsh effect, and it accentuates how abruptly and unexpectedly she died, and how bluntly the inspector delivered the news.

Even though she is criticized and separated from the Birlings throughout the play, Birling describing her as 'country-bred', she is clearly a kind person, as she 'refused to take any more' money from Eric.


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