In this play a lot of immoral acts are committed by all four of the Birlings and by Gerald. I propose to look in detail at the moral issues the play raises, to discuss the effect of drama in the play, and the faint optimism displayed by the younger generation at the end of the performance. The moral meaning is summed up by a passage spoken by the Inspector’s on page 56: ‘We do not live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. ‘ This talks about the community and how every member of society must help one another.
This is in contrast to what Mr Birling says very early on in the play: ‘a man has to make his own way’, page 9. This is the opposite of what the Inspector later says about community and how it is not one man’s job to get through life. Mr Birling was, perhaps, the least guilty of the Birlings, excluding Gerald. He discharged Eva for asking for a small raise, from twenty-two shillings and six pence to twenty-five shillings a week. He claims that this is entirely just, as it is ‘my job to keep labour costs down’, which it is; this is why I believe he is the least guilty.
He denies that his act of greed contributed in any way to the death of Eva. He remains unchanged and self-centred throughout, as all he cares about is the fact that there might be a public scandal and he might not get a knighthood. He cannot admit that he has pushed a girl over the edge and she has committed suicide. Sheila was very unfair with her treatment of Eva. As she was instrumental in causing Eva to be discharged from the last stable job she held. Sheila was jealous because Eva was prettier than her.
When Eva smiled at her because a dress did not suit Sheila, she became enraged and went to the manager’s office to demand for Eva’s immediate dismissal. When Shelia learns the fact that she was involved in the girl’s suicide, she becomes very distressed. This happens when the Inspector shows Sheila Eva’s photograph. She is the most affected member of the group as, Mr Birling says, ‘She so young and impressionable’. She seems to be one of the Birlings that become changed for the better and would not repeat her mistake, unlike Mr and Mrs Birling.