Short summary - An Inspector Calls - John Boynton Priestley

British literature summaries -

Short summary - An Inspector Calls
John Boynton Priestley

The play takes place in the spring evening of 1912 in the northern part of the central counties of England, in the industrial city of Bramley, in the house of the Burlings. In a narrow family circle, the engagement of Sheila, the daughter of Arthur Burling, a wealthy industrialist, is celebrated with Gerald Croft, the son of another wealthy industrialist. At the table, in addition to the persons named, there are also Sheila's mother, Mrs. Sybil Burling, and Eric, Sheila's brother. Everyone has high spirits, they drink, talk. When Sheila and her mother leave for another room to chat privately about the outfits, Arthur gives «useful» advice to Gerald and Eric. He is sure that a person should only deal with his personal affairs, take care of himself and his family, and not think about all the people. His speech interrupts the doorbell. A maid comes in and reports that police inspector Gul has come.

At first, Arthur Burling does not attach importance to this visit and thinks that he is connected with his activities in the court where Arthur is sitting. But the inspector says that two hours ago a young woman died in a city hospital: she drank a large amount of some concentrated disinfectant solution and burned her insides. The inspector claims that this is suicide and that in connection with this incident he needs to ask a few questions. Arthur Burling is surprised by the visit of the inspector, he does not understand how this story can concern him personally. The inspector explains that this girl, Eva Smith, once worked for Burling in a factory, and shows her photograph. Then Arthur Burling recalls that she really worked for him two years ago, but was fired because she incited to go on strike. But it’s still not clear to Arthur what could be the connection between this long history and the death of the girl. Then Sheila enters the room. The father tries to escort her daughter, but the inspector asks her to stay. It turns out that he wants to ask questions not only to Burling's father, but to everyone else. The inspector says that Eva Smith, after Burling fired her, was unemployed for two months and nearly died of starvation. But then she was surprisingly lucky - she got a place in the atelier of fashion at Milward, where Sheila and her mother often come. However, when Eva worked there for two months and was already quite comfortable, she was fired due to the fact that the customer complained about her. As it turned out, this customer was Sheila. Upon learning this, Sheila is very upset. She says that on that day she went to try on a dress, the style of which she invented herself, although both mother and dressmaker were against it. When Sheila tried on this dress, she immediately realized that she was wrong. She looked ridiculous in him, her dress simply disfigured. And when Eva Smith put the dress on her, everyone saw that it was very to her face. Sheila thought that the girl, looking at her, smiled. Then Sheila, not being able to hide her hostility to the girl and her anger at herself, became furious. She told the managing director of the studio that the girl was very impudent, and demanded to fire her.


Further, the inspector reports that after Eva Smith was forced to leave the studio, she decided to try her luck in another profession and began by changing her name to Daisy Renton. When the inspector spoke this name, Gerald betrayed himself with his reaction. It became clear to everyone that he was closely acquainted with her. Gerald said that he saw her for the first time about a year ago in the music hall "Palace". This bar is a favorite haven of girls of special behavior, Gerald noticed a girl there who was very different from the rest, and it was clear that she had no place in this bar. Meanwhile, a senior adviser to the Meggati municipality, a notorious Don Juan and perhaps the biggest rogue and drunkard in all of Bramley, began to pester her rudely. The girl cast a glance at Gerald, in which there was a desperate plea for help. The young man helped her get rid of Meggati, and then led her away from there. Then they went to another quiet place, where they drank a glass of port. There, during a conversation, Gerald realized that she had absolutely no money and that she was terribly hungry. He ordered her food. Two days later they met again, but this time it was no longer accidental. Gerald convinced the girl to move to his friend's empty apartment. He also gave her some money. Their love affair did not last long. They parted completely before Gerald left on business in another city. But he insisted that she take in the form of a farewell gift a small amount, which she could live by the end of the year. The inspector added to this that after breaking up with Gerald, the girl had gone two months to some seaside resort town to be alone, in silence. All these memories, as well as the news of the death of the former mistress, had a strong effect on Gerald, and he, with the permission of the inspector, went out to wander around the city a little. Before he leaves, Sheila gives him the engagement ring that he gave her the day before.

The inspector then turns to Mrs. Burling and offers her a look at the girl’s photo. Mrs. Burling said she had never seen her before. However, the inspector claims that it is not true that they talked two weeks ago when Eva Smith contacted the Bramley Women's Charity, of which Mrs. Burling is a member. It turns out that the inspector is right. At first, the girl introduced herself as Mrs. Burling. This immediately set Sybil against her. And the girl was refused help, as Mrs. Burling, the most influential member of society, insisted on this. When the inspector reported that Eve was pregnant, the stunned Sheila told her mother that she had acted cruelly and disgustingly. Eve knew that she would never be able to marry the father of the child, because he was still very young, and besides, stupid, licentious and overly prone to alcohol. He gave Eve money, but one day, learning that he had stolen it, she stopped taking it. That's why she turned to a charity. Mrs. Burling said she blames the young man from whom Eve was expecting a child, and reminded the inspector that his direct duty was to punish this young man according to his deserts and make him publicly admit his guilt.


Then Eric enters the room. He immediately understands that the turn has reached him. He is forced to admit that he met Eve on a November evening at the Palace bar. That same evening, at his insistence, they went to her house and were close there. Then they accidentally met for two weeks in the same bar, and again Eric went to her. Soon, she told him that she was pregnant. She did not want to marry. And Eric began to give her money. Father and the inspector ask Eric where he took this money, and it turns out that he stole it in his father's office. The inspector, after hearing all this, says that the girl was dying a painful death and that each of those present pushed her to this suicide. The inspector leaves. Gerald is returning. He begins to doubt that it was a real inspector. Then Arthur calls a friend of the colonel from the police and finds out that no Inspector Goole works there. Gerald calls the hospital and finds out that there is also no and there was no pregnant woman who committed suicide. Participants in the event begin to think that this whole story is someone else's strange joke. Gradually recovering from shock, those present are now cheerfully recalling the details of the conversation and making fun of each other. And then a phone rings. Burling answers the phone. Police called and said that a girl had just died on the way to the city hospital from poisoning with some kind of disinfectant, and that a police inspector went to the Burling to ask them a few questions. that this whole story is a strange joke. Gradually recovering from shock, those present are now cheerfully recalling the details of the conversation and making fun of each other. And then a phone rings. Burling answers the phone. Police called and said that a girl had just died on the way to the city hospital from poisoning with some kind of disinfectant, and that a police inspector went to the Burling to ask them a few questions. that this whole story is a strange joke. Gradually recovering from shock, those present are now cheerfully recalling the details of the conversation and making fun of each other. And then a phone rings. Burling answers the phone. Police called and said that a girl had just died on the way to the city hospital from poisoning with some kind of disinfectant, and that a police inspector went to the Burling to ask them a few questions.