How does Priestley present Eric Birling in an inspector calls?
At the beginning of the play, in the stage directions Priestley describes Eric as being 'half shy, half assertive', highlighting how he is a neurotic and an unstable character. The noun 'half' displays how he doesn’t know himself and is confused about his own character, highlighting his immaturity and lack of self-understanding. The contrast between 'shy' and 'assertive' emphasis his confusion and uneasiness, which could suggest that he is full of secrets and guilty of something. Eric's nervous behaviour could've formed from Mr Birling's constant disapproval. Eric doesn’t share his fathers 'hard-headed' attitude to business therefore Mr Birling belives that his 'trouble is- [he's] been spoilt' and had an easy life being the boss's son. The contrast between Eric and his family highlights his aloofness and detatchment.
Eric Birling is presented as puerile and immature. At the beginning of act when Sheila revealed to Mrs Birling about Eric being an alcoholic and the father of Eva Smith's baby, he responded by accusing her of betrayal, 'You told her. Why, you little sneak!' . His juvenile nature can be identified through his instant reaction to insult Sheila, calling her a 'sneak'!'. The use of the exclamation mark in his speech reveals his helplessness and true powerlessness. The pronoun 'you' highlights his need to search for others to hold liable because he can't cope with the disrespect and betrayal. He has the arrogance of a child therefore he finds solace in in blaming other's so that he can reduce the blame on himself. His lack of responsibility displays everything that Priestley believes is what is wrong with the Edwardian ruling class.
At the beginning Eric was part of the 'chain of events', as he raped Eva Smith and got her pregnant and treated her 'as if she were an animal, a thing, not a person'. Eric abused his power of a working class girl, highlighting his limited sense of social responsibility. Eric Birling displayed an acute sense of responsibility as he was concerned enough to give her money, which he was 'borrowing' from his father. However, by the end of the play Eric take full responsibility for his actions and like Sheila he felt very guilty about what he did. He is ashamed of his parents' inability to admit their own responsibility. Priestley uses Eric to show how the younger and future generations are prepared to change their ways for the future of society and abandon his parents traditional capitalist views.
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- 14-11-2016 20:11