An Inspector Calls essayWatch
Could anyone please grade this essay and give me suggestions for improvement. I’d deeply appreciate it as my English teacher is away on maternal leave now. Thanks in advance.
How does Priestley present the character of Eric throughout the play?
Priestley crafts the character of Eric Birling to represent the younger, more open minded generation of Edwardian England alongside his sister, Sheila Birling in this morality play. He, as well as Sheila, are essential tools to Priestley’s socialist message towards the denouement of the play; after the Inspector leaves, they replace him as Priestley’s mouthpiece.
Through the play’s exposition as the proverbial curtain rises, we see Eric being described as ‘half shy half assertive’. These characteristics suggest unease and internal conflict within him, as well as being more unexpected of an upper-middle class boy who’s set to inherit his father’s capitalist empire. However, as the play progresses we can soon sympathise with and understand Eric’s mannerism when we hear Birling’s speech. It is through Eric that Priestley initially exposes Mr Birling and capitalism (which he symbolically represents) as having a substandard effect on society. In his speech, Birling relays upon them the family philosophy of individualism: “every man has to make his own way and look after himself and his family”. Priestley deliberately does this so we can see the irony in that Birling does not look after his own family, as evident by Eric’s ‘half shy half assertive’ behaviour, already presenting Birling as deceitful and not a man to be relied upon. Furthermore, Priestley uses dramatic irony to further reduce the credibility of Birling with his plethora of incorrect opinions: “and to that (war) – I say fiddlesticks!” , “There will be peace and prosperity everywhere, except Russia of course”, despite the 1945 audience being clearly aware of the two world wars since as well as the progression in Russia (communist revolution). To have a father who continually lectures you with his own false philosophies and beliefs, the audience can sympathise with and excuse Eric in his unusual mannerism and behaviour (“Eric suddenly guffaws”).
This idea of Eric being isolated and pedantic in his manner can be further understood by Birling’s attitude towards him, constantly cutting him off and ignoring his queries (“don’t interrupt Eric”, “just let me finish Eric”). We feel as if Eric isn’t being valued or respected by his capitalist father, leading to his ‘half shy half assertive’ behaviour. We also get the idea of Eric’s isolation from his family by his differing ideals from his narrow-minded, conservative father. He believes Eva shouldn’t have been sacked, “I’d have kept her on” and sympathises with her plea for higher wages “Why shouldn’t they try for higher wages, we try for higher prices”. In this statement, we see Eric adopt Priestley’s socialist view of paying the workers higher wage while contradicting consumer capitalism. This gives the audience hope that such a situation as that of Eva’s death can be escaped if the younger generation, whom Eric represents, can do what is right for society (socialism). This instance of Oedipal complex where Eric challenges his father’s beliefs represent the battle between the ideologies of socialism and capitalism.
As the play progresses, it’s revealed (much to the shock of Mrs Birling) that Eric had committed an actual punishable crime: rape. Priestley deliberately structures the scene when Mrs Birling instinctively says the responsibility lies to “the father of the child” while it being unbeknownst to her that it was Eric (despite everyone else having figured it out), showing her lack of involvement in family and the neglect that ensues with capitalism. From the use of language in Eric’s speech describing the incident, we can tell he is immature and lacking sincerity. He uses colloquial language you’d expect in casual conversations despite it being a morbidly serious situation, such as “hellish” and “chap”. We get the sense he is irresponsible and a heavy drinker too as he relays “I can’t remember any of it”, shocking the audience and highlighting the flaws of a capitalist family in such acts of immorality, sin and debauchery. However, despite committing the most atrocious act of them all, he is quick to accept responsibility and understand his grave blame in Eva’s suicide, with Sheila: unlike the older generations of Birlings and Gerald, making the audience perceive the younger generation as more reasonable and responsible, providing a beacon of hope to society.
We can see Eric is sincere in his attitude towards acceptance of responsibility in the latter stages of Act 3 when the senior Birling’s and Gerald celebrate the nonexistence of the Inspector; while he and Sheila are ‘frightened’ by the way they talk. Eric goes on to point out that Mrs Birling was to blame too for her reckless and inconsiderate action of turning a destitute Eva away simply due to ‘pride’ (“It’s all your fault”). As well as this, he understands the Inspector’s message of social responsibility and blames everyone for their part, “we all helped to kill her”. The inclusive pronoun “we” emphasises the sense of collective responsibility that the Inspector promotes throughout the play.
Eric, along with Sheila, are shown to be beacon of light to guide society towards the right direction as they adopt the Inspector’s socialist philosophy and challenge the morally corrupt ideals of capitalism. Despite their atrocious actions, they actively make an effort to change and repent their sins for the better of society; something which Priestley actively sought to encourage from writing the play.
You could probably do with finding a few more techniques to mention and talk about, like u did with dramatic irony and inclusive pronouns.
Also you could have put in a few more quotes by Eric in the first paragraph and a few less of Mr Birling (unless you have time, in which case I suppose u could do both) since I got the impression that it was more an essay on Mr Birling than Eric, but u focused on Eric later in the essay more which was good.
But I reckon this would probs be a 9 so well done!!