The “Heinemann Plays” series offers contemporary drama and classic plays in durable classroom editions. In this play an inspector interrupts a party to investigate a girl’s suicide, and implicates each of the party-makers in her death.
The play is a three-act drama, which takes place on a single night in April 1912, focusing on the prosperous upper middle-class Birling family, who live in a comfortable home in the fictional town of Brumley, “an industrial city in the north Midlands”. The family is visited by a man calling himself Inspector Goole, who questions the family about the suicide of a young working-class woman, Eva Smith (also known as Daisy Renton). The family is interrogated and revealed to have been responsible for the young woman’s exploitation, abandonment and social ruin, effectively leading to her death. Long considered part of the repertory of classic “drawing room” theatre, the play has also been hailed as a scathing critique of the hypocrisies of Victorian/Edwardian English society and as an expression of Priestley’s socialist political principles. The play is studied in many schools in the UK as one of the prescribed texts for the English Literature GCSE examination. Characters: Mrs. Sybil Birling, Eric Birling, Eva Smith, Sheila Birling, Arthur Birling, Gerald Croft, Inspector Goole, Edna