Act Two follows on cleanly from the cliffhanger at the end of Act One with the Inspector looking 'steadily and searchingly' at Sheila and Gerald (Act One). This produces a 'hysterical laugh' (Act Two) from Sheila, who repeats the word "hysterical".
Gerald intends to protect her from "unpleasant" and "disturbing" truths, but Sheila says she would rather not be "protected".
Inspector: "we know one young woman who wasn't don't we?" (i.e. no one protected Eva Green from a horrible death).
Sheila and Gerald both speak 'bitterly' to each other. Sheila is smarting from her own disgrace and seems keen to hear the dirty truth about her fiancé. They start bickering. Sheila says Gerald must see her as "a selfish vindictive creature". He says no.
The Inspector interrupts: 'massively taking charge' - and re-focusses them on the fact that "a girl died tonight" ... "who never did anybody any harm" ... "in misery and agony". Sheila is 'distressed'.
Inspector: "Miss Birling... feels responsible"... but is not "entirely to blame".
Sheila: "I know I'm to blame - and I'm desperately sorry" ... "we all started ... so pleased with ourselves"
Mrs B: "this absurd business" ... "please don't contradict me". She speaks, 'haughtily' and calls the Inspector "impertinent" ... "we have more reason to take offence" 'rebuking' him (telling him off). She says Eric is "in an excitable silly mood" 'too much to drink" he's not used to it "He's only a boy"
Sheila: "we must stop these silly pretences." "He's been steadily drinking too much for the last two years"
Mrs B: "naturally I don't know anything about the girl"
Sheila: "he's giving us the rope - so that we'll hang ourselves"
Inspector > Gerald: I met her at the Palace bar "It's a favourite haunt of women of the town" (i.e. prostitutes). He doesn't want Sheila to listen to the story.
Sheila: "But I'm supposed to be engaged to the hero of it."
Gerald: the girl "looked quite different" '(distressed)' "I've suddenly realised ... that she's dead"
Sheila: "between us we killed her."
Gerald: "she looked young and fresh and charming and altogether out of place"
Then follows a truth about the respectable friends of Mr B - Alderman Meggarty: "half-drunk", "obscene" "notorious womanizer" "one of the worst sots and rogues in Brumley"
Mrs B is 'staggered'
Sheila: "everyone knows"
Birling: 'sharply, shocked'
Cry for Help / Did you Love Her?
Gerald says Daisy Renton gave him a "cry for help" - "all she wanted was to talk - a little friendliness" "she was desperately hard up and ... actually hungry" "I didn't install her there so that I could make love to her" "I was sorry for her" "I'm sorry, Sheila"
Inspector "But she became your mistress?"
Inspector "Were you in love with her?"
Gerald "I didn't feel about her the way she felt about me." "It wasn't disgusting"
Mrs B "It's disgusting to me."
Gerald asks to leave so he can "walk about"
Sheila 'hands him the [engagement] ring' as he leaves. She says she knew he was lying, and now has more respect for him than she had before. "now at least you've been honest" "You and I aren't the same people who sat down to dinner here. We'd have to start all over again, getting to know each other."
Gerald: "I know what you mean. But I'm coming back - if I may"
The Inspector shows a photograph to Mrs B, who asks for it. She says she doesn't recognize it.
Inspector: "You're not telling the truth"
Birling tells him: "You'll apologise at once."
Inspector "Public men, Mr Birling, have responsibilities as well as privileges." The Inspector then says Mrs B is in charge of a charity "to which women in distress can appeal for help"
Mrs B answers with 'dignity' that they often help "deserving cases"
The Inspector realises Eric has just left and says if he doesn't return he will have to go find him. Mr and Mrs B 'exchange bewildered and rather frightened glances'
The Inspector says Mrs B saw the girl "only two weeks ago"
Sheila is 'astonished'
Mrs B "she called herself Mrs Birling" ... "a piece of gross impertinence" "that prejudiced me against her case"
Mr B "damned impudence"
Inspector: "You admit to being prejudiced?"
Mrs B "she only had herself to blame" "I used my influence to have [her case] refused" "I did nothing I'm ashamed of that won't bear investigation" "I consider I did my duty" "You have no power to make me change my mind" "I've done nothing wrong."
Inspector "I think you did something terribly wrong - and that you're going to spend the rest of your life regretting it"
Sheila "Oh- horrible - horrible! How could she have wanted to kill herself?"
Inspector: "Because she'd been turned out and turned down too many times" "she was going to have a child."
The Father of the Child
Mrs B "Go and look for the father of the child. It's his responsibility."
Inspector: the girl was "alone, friendless, almost penniless, desperate... And you slammed the door in her face."
Mrs B "I was justified." "She said the father was a youngster - silly and wild... He had given her money but she didn't want to take any more." "I didn't believe a word of it"
Inspector: "Who is to blame?"
Mrs B "First, the girl... Secondly, I blame the young man... he should be made an example of... very severely"
The tension builds with Sheila 'crying', Mrs B says "You're behaving like a hysterical child", reacting 'severely' then 'triumphantly' that she's cleared herself from blame (she thinks)
She demands what the Inspector calls a "Public confession of responsibility" as his "Duty".
Sheila is 'distressed', Mrs B 'understanding now' Mr B 'terrified now', 'thunderstruck' Mrs B 'agitated'
Eric enters looking 'extremely pale and distressed.'
The author, Melanie Kendry, is an Oxford graduate, outstanding-rated English Language and Literature teacher of ages 10-18 in the British education system. In 2012, she was nominated for Pearson's Teaching Awards. As a private tutor, she raises grades often from C to A. Her writing is also featured in The Huffington Post.