An Inspector Calls

Sheila's Interview

summarise the way the inspector interviews sheila.

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The Inspector tells Sheila what happened to Eva Smith. He also tells her that Eva was very pretty and only twenty-four years old. In the course of the conversation that follows, the Inspector reveals that he thinks that Gerald, Eric, or Sheila might know something about this girl; he did not come simply to see Birling. The atmosphere in the room changes as everyone begins to feel that something ominous is coming.

Sheila continues to ask about Eva Smith, despite the fact that Birling is keen to get her to leave the room, though she comments that she has never heard the name before. The Inspector then reveals that Eva Smith used more than one name, and she changed her name after being sacked by Birling. Eva Smith, the Inspector continues, was an orphan and had no parents to return to, so she spent two months living in lodgings, making no money, “lonely, half-starved ... desperate.” Sheila is horrified, only to be told by the Inspector that

“There are a lot of young women living that sort of existence in every city and big town in this country, Miss Birling. If there weren’t, the factories and warehouses wouldn’t know where to look for cheap labor.”

“It would do us all a bit of good,” the Inspector adds, if “sometimes we tried to put ourselves in the place of these young women.” Eva Smith, the Inspector continues, then managed to find work at Milwards, a shop which Sheila immediately says she goes to. Eva worked at Milwards very happily until, after a couple of months, she was suddenly told that she had to go. There was nothing wrong with how she was doing her work, but, the Inspector adds, a customer had complained about her. The Inspector shows an agitated Sheila the photograph of the girl, and she runs out of the room, clearly having recognized the girl. Birling, angry with the Inspector’s behavior, follows after her.

Gerald asks to see the photograph, and the Inspector replies, “all in good time.” After a short discussion, Eric tries to go to bed, and the Inspector stops him in turn. Sheila returns and “looks as if she’s been crying.” Sheila realizes her responsibility, which prompts the Inspector to say that she is not entirely responsible, but “partly to blame. Just as your father is.”

Sheila then tells the story of her encounter with the dead girl. She had gone into Milwards to try something on, and she insisted on trying a dress which, in the end, didn’t suit her at all. The girl had brought the dress up from the workroom and had held it up against herself to illustrate something—and “it just suited her. She was the right type for it, just as I was the wrong type,” Sheila reports. When she had tried the dress, she had caught sight of the girl smiling, as if to say, “Doesn’t she look awful.” She complained to the manager and made a big fuss.

At the end of this narrative, Sheila almost breaks down. “How could I know what would happen afterwards?” she asks, adding that if the girl had not been so pretty, she would never have done it. “I couldn’t be sorry for her,” she concludes. Sheila wishes she could help the girl, but, as the Inspector cursorily points out, “Yes, but you can’t. It’s too late. She’s dead.”

Sheila plaintively wonders why this had to happen, and the Inspector announces that he is not going “until I know all that happened.” He then reveals that, after being sacked from the shop, the girl changed her name to Daisy Renton. Gerald starts at the name and asks to get himself a drink. The Inspector, taken by Eric, leaves the room, going to the drawing room to find Mr. Birling, who in turn has gone to update Mrs. Birling on what has happened. Sheila and Gerald, the engaged couple, are left alone onstage together.

Sheila has realized that Gerald knew Daisy Renton, and she also correctly guesses that he was seeing her last summer—during the time when Sheila herself hardly saw him. Gerald admits it but says that it “was all over and done with, last summer. I hadn’t set eyes on the girl for at least six months.” Gerald then asks Sheila to keep this information from the Inspector. She laughs at him, saying that the Inspector already knows—and knows more than any of them. “You’ll see,” she finishes, just as the door slowly opens to reveal the Inspector looking at them. “Well?” the Inspector asks, as the curtain comes down at the end of Act One.