Eric, I think, plays an extremely important role in the play: An Inspector Calls, probably because of his difference in personality from the other protagonists. Eric is a young man who likes getting his own way and being the centre of attention. I know this because he says things like “Look here I’ve had enough of this,” which shows that he is willing to take control of a situation and impose his views on others, making him a key character in the play. Because of his assertiveness he is able to capture the audience’s attention and therefore keeps the people watching gripped, which obviously proves to be quite useful, when trying to create a successful play.Order now
At the beginning of act one, all the characters are quite pleased with themselves as they have just enjoyed a meal, to celebrate the future wedding of Sheila Birling and Gerald Croft. It is difficult to assume what Eric’s personality is like at first because he has been seemingly influenced by drink. This, I think, is obvious because after reading the stage directions I can see that “Eric suddenly guffaws” apparently for no reason, and also Sheila accuses him of being “squiffy”. One thing I can tell is that Eric has somewhat different thoughts and opinions than his father – Arthur Birling. I can tell this because at one point, at the beginning of act one, he is discussing something with Birling and uses phrases such as “well don’t do any,” and “Yes, I know – but still-.”
On page nine in the play Eric creates quite an air of intrigue when he, Birling and Gerald are having a conversation about women. Birling has just finished saying how clothes are like “a woman’s token of self respect,” when Eric jumps in and says “yes, I remember-,” but, according to the stage directions “he checks himself.” This tells the audience that Eric definitely has a story behind him, that he wants to keep hidden from the other characters in the play, making them want to get to know Eric as more of a person and find out more of what he is like when not under the nose of his parents. I think it is clear that Eric is not too keen on the inspector when he first arrives because he is annoyed when the inspector won’t let him look at the photograph.
In the middle of Act One it is hard to decide what Eric’s relation with his father is, and whether or not he has similar opinions or not. This is because at one point he agrees with him when he says “And as you were saying Dad, a man has to look after himself,” and at another he disagrees when they are having a discussion about the reason for Eva Smiths death. I think this makes Eric all the more important in the play because he’s the one who dares to defy Arthur Birling, who is used to everyone looking up to him and obeying him. I also think this daring quality in Eric appeals to the audience because, they enjoy watching the family rift between a young, unmarried “man about town” and his “pompous business owner” father.
Eric seems very calm and collected until page twenty two where he bursts out “Look here I’ve had enough of this!” I think this helps to build up Eric’s personality, because at this point the audience realises he cracks under pressure, and therefore isn’t as cool and relaxed as he makes out to be. Some people may argue that Eric is not a very important character in the play because he doesn’t feature at all in Act Two, and at this point the audience may have lost interest in him however his opening line of Act Three makes all the difference. He says “You know, don’t you,” which immediately makes the audience desperate to see the reaction of the rest of the family towards Eric.
At this point in the play Eric is resoundingly miserable as, according to the stage directions, he says something “bitterly.” Sheila, whom Eric normally gets on fairly well with, has finally gotten to him and he snaps at her when he says “You told her. Why you little sneak!” I think the fact that Eric has been discovered as the father of Eva Smiths child, has altered the audience’s opinion of Eric quite severely because, in their eyes, he is no longer the humorous and mischievous young lad, but instead the irresponsible womaniser.
Although Eric does seem a nasty piece of work at first, when he tells the story of what had happened when he had met Eva Smith, he becomes a more likable person. I think this is probably because he had only been unfortunate because he’d had too much to drink – he hadn’t actually set out to hurt Eva or cause what had happened to her. I can tell this because he gave her around fifty pounds to help her and, although it was stolen from his father’s office, he had risked getting into trouble just to help her out.
I think the most noticeable moment of dislike for his father comes when Eric admits to stealing the money. At this point he’s says openly what his feelings are towards Arthur Birling and he includes the sentence, “Because you’re not exactly the kind of father a chap would go to when he’s in trouble – that’s why.” I think this is where the audience really begins to sympathise with Eric because they can see now, that Eric probably would have helped even more if he could, and in a way that wouldn’t get him into trouble.
Eric also begins to get extremely agitated with his mother because he feels that she let Eva down the most in that she never helped her when she could have. He says things like, “Then – you killed her. She came to you to protect me, and you turned her away.” I think he is very frustrated by Sybil, however, because she won’t accept any responsibility for her actions, and I think again, that this makes the audience feel sympathetic towards Eric because he’s standing up for Eva the most.
In order to understand fully why Eric’s thoughts and actions are so unique I need to understand the social situation of people in that time. The play is set in 1912, which was a time when money and class were extremely important in peoples’ lives. I think this factor makes Eric seem more heroic somehow, because he is an upper class person acting in a way that marked the change in the entire social system at that time, because he is willing to stand up for a girl who is in a much lower class than himself.
I think that the time the audience admires Eric the most, is at the end of the play when the family has discovered that the inspector wasn’t real, and that the entire story was a hoax. I think this because he and Sheila are united against the rest of the family in their fight to make them see differently, and change their ways. For the audience, I would say this has to be one of the most dramatic scenes in the play because, for once, it seems that the older, more pompous members of the family are going to be upstaged by young Sheila and Eric. The excellent idea of the final page brings the entire play together, thus proving Eric to be right, and therefore more knowledgeable.