Eric’s Character Development in An Inspector Calls by J. B. Priestley

In “An Inspector Calls”, Eric is seen by the audience to be conflicting in his character He could be perceived as admirable but also he presents some detestable qualities, Priestley uses him to show that although society has made errors, it‘s possible to change, especially if you are open enough and caring enough to look after your fellow man. In order to show this message, Priestley initially creates the sense that Eric is weak, but in some ways, he becomes a role model — an emblem of the way forward. The presentation of Eric is as an uncommendable, slightly drunk and uncomfortable character. This is shown when at the start of the play he suddenly laughs for no apparent reason — “I just had to laugh” — which shows that he was a bit “squiffy” as told by Sheila. It is also shown further on in this play that Eric is alcohol dependent as when he is just about to explain everything that he has done he says “Can I have a drink first?” This explains that to help him get through bad times, he relies on alcohol to push him through and not something else such as his family and friends.

This is not a very commendable trait as drinking is not good for your health so this suggests that Priestley wanted to portray Eric as not very admirable and a suspicious character at the start of the play. In Act Three, Eric is shown as a praiseworthy person in my opinion — this is because he confesses to every bad deed to his family (which would not have been easy) as well as the Inspector “You haven’t made it any easier for me have you mother?” explains that point as it was already hard for Eric to gather the courage to tell everyone, but when his own family says that the person that had done the terrible things to Eva should go to jail, it would take a lot more bravery to confess all of his wrongdoings. This is a conflicting pan of the play as the perception of this scene differs; on the other hand, it could be portrayed that Eric is not ashamed of his wrongdoings and feels no guilt in telling his family yet on the other hand, it could also be presented as.

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Eric feeling very guilty and has been stressing about it ever since (this could explain the reason that he is drinking a lot — to drown his fears) and that he wants to come out to his family but is unable to as a result of his fear of his father and his bitterness to him which is shown later on in this play when Mr Birling seems to care about his money over his son. Eric’s involvement with Eva is told to the audience soon after him talking to his mother and this shocks his family. Priestley presents Eric in many ways when he describes the despicable event of Eric forcing himself upon Eva using short simple sentences. Eric describes himself as in a “state where a chap easily turns nasty” which suggests that Eric did not do an ethical thing because he had the upper hand as if someone did something that did not please him, he would become violent which could become dangerous. Eva was forced to let Eric in her room and all that Eric says is “that’s when it happened.”

This can be perceived as him being an incredibly horrible person as he isn’t ashamed of telling his family about what happened that day. This means that Priestley wanted Eric to be the villain of the story of Eva Smith, yet the quote can be viewed as Eric feeling so guilty and bad that he did not want to say anymore. This could be why he said “that’s when it happened” and not “I did to Eva.” Priestley creates a conflicting point in this scene as it is up to the reader whether they perceive it as good or bad that he is confessing everything and might want to change and become a more admirable character. As a part of Eric’s confession, he states that he stole money from his father’s accounts which is against the law therefore making him a shameful person. As well as this, Eric also denies the fact that he did steal the money by saying “No, not really, I intended to pay it back.”

This could just be a lie trying to cover up his crimes which would make him a more deceitful person or he could be genuinely telling the truth and wanted to pay back his father as he feared the consequences. Therefore, although Eric was being presented as a coward and a criminal but as he is also presented as contradictory so he may well change and present more admirable qualities. Eric is seen to be changed and presents a more admirable personality after that scene as when Mr Birling asks about the money, Eric does not care about it but rather cares for Eva and about what happened to her — “The money is not the important thing. It‘s what happened to the girl and what we all did to her that matters.” This shows that he has realised his mistake and knows that repenting is more important than the money that he stole This is admirable as a person that cares more about money than humanity is a terrible person so Eric has presented himself as a contradicting person of many emoLions, Priestley uses brackets before speech to show Eric’s emotions.

This presents Eric as admirable as well as disrespectful Whenever Eric is being spoken to after his confessions, the tone of his voice suggests that he was not talking in a respectful way but rather aggressive (this is shown when (angrily) or (bitterly) is put before his speech) This could be taken as Eric being an impolite and rude person which is not very admirable qualities to have. On the contrary, this threatening tone may also be linked to how he feels about himself; he may feel very bad after all he has done to Eva and might feel enraged at himself for doing all of the terrible deeds that he did. All in all, Eric has been a contradictory character on the topic of being admirable. This is shown by his transition from the start of the play to the ending of the play. At the start of the play, Eric is seen as a spoilt and drunk child of a rich businessman, which does not represent admirable characteristics, However, by the ending of the play, Eric is seen to regret all of his mistakes and realises that he needs to change his perspective of life, therefore making him admirable.

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Eric’s Character Development in An Inspector Calls by J. B. Priestley. (2023, May 19). Retrieved from