Gerald is the only non Birling in the whole play that has anything to do with Eva Smith, in the sequence of events that built up to Eva Smith’s suicide. Throughout the play he appears genuinely upset to hear of her departure, but what does he say or do to give this impression?
The play ‘An Inspector Calls’ is about a young woman, Eva Smith, committing suicide due to an unlucky period of time, in which some dealings with a family called the Birlings continuously let her down to an extent she feels she has to take away her own life. Arthur, Sybil, Edna, Sheila and Eric Birling are the culprits involved, along with Gerald Croft who is engaged to Sheila.
Gerald met Eva about six months before she died, in the palace bar and even at that early stage it seemed Gerald was looking out for Eva. He does this by getting rid of Alderman Meggarty, who Gerald believed was scaring Eva, or worse about to abuse her, ‘I told her she didn’t want any more of that sort of thing’ page 35. Gerald tells him that the manager wants him to ‘get him out the way’ after Eva had given him glances ‘that were nothing less than cries for help’ page 35. This proves he is looking out for her and Eva is obviously grateful as, as soon as he asks her to leave with him, she ‘agreed at once’ page 35.
When they leave for the county hotel, which Gerald believes will be quiet at that time of night, Gerald seems very concerned for Eva’s well being and comforts her. They talk and when Eva admits to being ‘desperately hard up’ and ‘actually hungry,’ both page 36, he looks out for her by finding food for her.
When they meet again Eva accidentally admits ‘she hadn’t a penny and was going to be turned out of her miserable backroom’ page 36, in which she had been living in. Gerald then shows off his tremendous personality by offering for her to stay in Morgan Terrace which he was currently looking after for a close friend who had departed on a six month holiday to Canada.
When admitting what had happened that night to the inspector and the very observant Birlings, he makes it clear that ‘she was not installed there to make love to’ page 37, and that he just feels sorry for her. This proves Gerald is genuinely worried about giving the wrong impression and is rather embarrassed by telling them all. Maybe he feels reluctant to tell due to the reaction it would cause, maybe he knew the Birlings would not react positively as if to live up to their reputation, which meant everything in that era.
When the conversation continues, Gerald describes Eva’s ‘warm personality,’ only to be asked several times whether they fell in love, the Birlings appear frustrated and react negatively by either defending themselves or their family name, completely forgetting Eva and why the detective was there in the first place. The Birlings may however be feeling embarrassed as their future son in law had helped a women in poverty, and not a man. In those days, it was generally the men who were homeless and not the women.
This text is a clear comparison; page 37, between Gerald and the Birlings. Gerald is obviously more worried about Eva and hesitates when making his next comment when he is again asked whether he loved her. He again makes it clear that he did not take her in to deliberately fall in love with her, but only to give her food, protection and shelter. He also says that he ‘didn’t feel for her as she felt for him’ again letting them know that no affair had occurred behind Sheila’s back.
The Birlings are obviously bothered that this is the first they have heard of Gerald looking after a woman, Eva, as they are continuously snappy and seem to be asking more questions than the inspector himself. ‘How long did this affair last for?’ and ‘what did you get out of this?’ page 38. They cannot seem to realise that Gerald is upset that Eva has died and the Birlings start getting very sarcastic when Sheila described Gerald as the ‘fairy princess’ and says that Gerald ‘must have loved it all’ referring to all the attention. Sarcasm was a new humour around then and had recently come into fashion.
In my view Gerald did not think about all the attention he was receiving and was more interested in making sure Eva’s life got back on track, he looked out for her, this is said on page 37 when Gerald says ‘I didn’t like the idea of her returning to the Palace Bar, I did not ask for anything in return.’ This backs up the fact that he wanted to get her life back on track as he asked for nothing in return, by saying this Gerald proves that he is also looking out for her by almost keeping an eye out on where she hangs out.
Gerald finally tells Eva she has to leave just before he plans to leave for a couple of weeks. Sheila once again makes a witty comment when she says ‘that was nice for you’, after Gerald tells them he believed she took it well. Sheila once again is showing off her sarcastic streak almost exactly at the wrong moment, once again proving her personality can sometimes be foul and hurtful.
After Gerald has said all he has wanted to say about Eva, he shows a genuine interest on what had happened to her when she left his company. He asks a series of questions such as, ‘I got the impression she thought of leaving Brumley, whether she did or not, I don’t know, did she?’ He asks other shorter questions after when he asks, whether she went alone or with anybody else, and whether she maybe met someone new. Gerald is worried that someone new mistreated her, meaning another cause of suicide.
If Eva was given a scene to show her feelings on Gerald, I am sure even after he had said that he did not want her staying with him anymore, she would have only been too positive about him. If I was to direct this scene I would make Eva look upset and feel sorry for herself after she had left Gerald’s house, or very happy whilst they were together. I would tell her to smile if ever Gerald’s name was mentioned showing that she had good memories of him, but then return to being upset showing she still wants to be with him. I believe this as from the moment they met she trusted him (she followed him out of the palace bar, away from Alderman Meggarty) and as Gerald had already said that she loved him, so she is therefore not going to be to critical of the man she loved and had helped her continuously while her head was down.
Throughout the whole play I find the Birlings very stuck up, and too worried about themselves, even when someone’s life has been taken away. When the inspector asks why Mr Birling turned her on the streets, Mr Birling replies, ‘I did what any employer would have done,’ page 37. Mr Birling is trying to make himself look innocent to the inspector and the others, forgetting their feelings.
This may be because of the date it was set, in the early 1900’s it mattered a lot more what people thought of each other and good reputation was vital to be successful. Gerald, on the other hand, seemed more hesitant and worried about Eva and just wanted to answer the questions as quickly as possible, maybe to be by himself. He appears upset about Eva’s life unlike the Birlings who neither appear sympathetic, nor any regret in their own actions. I see Gerald as a nicer personality than the Birlings and a lot more sympathetic.