We never meet Eva Smith during the course of the play, but she is a very important character. It is her death that is the cause of the Inspector’s investigation which in turn drives the drama.
The audience learns about Eva through the Inspector, who has read a letter and a diary she kept. They also learn about her through the characters she came into contact with. A lot of the information about her is inferred - from the incident at Mr Birling’s factory we can infer that she was strong willed. From her interaction with Sheila the audience can see that Eva had a sense of humour. Her relationship with Gerald, when she changed her name to Daisy Renton, reveals her sensitivity. By the time she reaches Eric and Sybil, Eva is desperate and resourceful in trying to get herself help.
Eva is always referred to in a positive light by the characters that met her but the Inspector never lets the audience or the Birlings and Gerald forget her gruesome death. The Inspector's final speech reveals Priestley's lesson that there are millions of Eva Smiths being exploited and this must not continue.
|How is Eva Smith like this?||Evidence||Analysis|
|Strong willed||Eva Smith shows that she is strong willed when she organises a strike for higher wages. This shows that she is not afraid to stand up to 'hard-headed' business men like Mr Birling.||Birling: "...she'd been working in one of our machine shops for over a year. A good worker too. In fact, the foreman there told me he was ready to promote her into what we call a leading operator - head of a small group of girls. But after they came back from their holidays that August, they were all rather restless, and they suddenly decided to ask for more money."||Even by Mr Birling's own admission, Eva Smith had lots of qualities that showed her strong will - she was lively, worked well and was in line for a promotion. He sees her asking for more money as a bad thing, as Eric later states 'I don't see why she should have been sacked just because she'd a bit more spirit than the others. You said yourself she was a good worker.' The same strong will that made her stand out as a good worker eventually got her the sack.|
|Sense of humour||Eva shows that she has a sense of humour when she smiles as Sheila tries on a dress that doesn’t suit her. The audience warm to Eva and see her as human.||"Well, when I tried the thing on and looked at myself and knew that it was all wrong, I caught sight of this girl smiling at Miss Francis - as if to say: 'doesn't she look awful' - and I was absolutely furious."||Here the audience would empathise with Eva and see her laughing at Sheila as showing that she has a good sense of humour and a human side. If Priestley had not shown this side to Eva then she might have come across as 'too good to be true' and would not be believable as a character.|
|Sensitive||The diary Eva kept after her affair with Gerald ended shows that she felt emotions very deeply and the audience empathises with her as a result.||Inspector: "She kept a rough sort of diary. And she said there that she had to go away and be quiet and remember 'just to make it last longer'. She felt there'd never be anything as good again for her - so she had to make it last longer".||The Inspector explains how Eva Smith went away to be 'quiet' and to 'remember'. These words clearly show that Eva was emotionally sensitive. The fact she also felt that 'there'd never be anything as good again for her' make us realise how devastated she was when Gerald ended their relationship. The fact that Gerald just got back on with his life and relationship with Sheila makes the audience empathise even more with the sensitive Eva.|