Inspector's Interrogation & Eva Smith/Daisy Renton
When he hears how his father sacked Eva Smith, he supports the worker's cause, like Sheila. "Why shouldn't they try for higher wages?".
He feels guilt and frustration with himself over his relationship with the girl. He cries, "Oh - my God! - how
stupid it all is!" as he tells his story. He is horrified that his thoughtless actions had such consequences.
He had some innate sense of responsibility, though, because although he got a woman pregnant, he was concerned enough to give
her money. He was obviously less worried about stealing (or 'borrowing' from his father's office) than he was about the girl's future.
He is appalled by his parents' inability to admit their own responsibility. He tells them forcefully, "I'm ashamed of you." When Birling tries to
threaten him in Act 3, Eric is aggressive in return: "I don't give a damn now." Do you think Eric has ever stood up to his father in this way before?
He played a significant part in Eva Smith’s death – he met her at the Palace Bar, forced his way into her home and got her pregnant. ‘I was in that state when a chap
easily turns nasty.’ He then stole money from his father’s business in order to support her. If this became public, the family’s reputation would have been ruined.
He confesses he met her at the "Palace Bar" where rich men go to meet prostitutes' (like for instance "Old Joe Meggarty... a notorious womanizer"). She sleeps
with him because he "threatened to make a row" as he "was in that state where a chap easily turns nasty", again showing the power and control of rich men.
Daisy becomes pregnant but won't marry Eric (she always behaves more honourably) as she doesn't love him.
Like Sheila, he accepts its doesn't matter if the Inspector is real or not: "The girl is still dead" and later "we all helped to
kill her", showing how he accepts responsibility. He repeats that "she's dead" several times, clearly showing he feels guilty.
Priestley's use of Eric
Eric is the son of Mr and Mrs Birling. It is clear his father regards him as "spoilt" and foolish with "varsity" education. From the
start Priestley describes him as "not quite at ease" and we learn that he is unhappy at home and must keep his ideas to himself.
At the end of the play, like Sheila, he is fully aware of his social responsibility. He is not interested in his parents' efforts
to cover everything up: as far as he is concerned, the important thing is that a girl is dead. "We did her in all right".
Priestley uses Eric, a member of the younger generation, to show why the older generation have made society unjust and led
the country to war and deprivation. It is the younger generation in the form of Sheila and Eric who offer hope and change.
He adhered the Inspector's words about "fire and blood and anguish" and realises life must change; on the other hand he
makes it clear that he is "frightened" by his parents failure to accept their portion of blame. Despite his heavy drinking Priestley
gives Eric sense to see what he did wrong and what others did wrong, even if they themselves denied any responsibility.
Priestley clearly wants the audience to understand that he is not a complete villain and that he is clearly a product of his upbringing and environment.
Eric symbolises the temptation in everyone and the wish for us to do what is right. He shows us a new point of view from a younger generation which also symbolises change.
Priestley cleverly links the play with the seven deadly sins. As the majority of his audience was Christian at the time and the seven deadly sins were part of Christian
teachings, they would find it easy to relate to the seven deadly sins. Each character is linked with one of the sins. Eric represents gluttony as he has become an alcoholic;
he is drinking far too much. He also represents sloth as he does not work for the money he gives to Eva Smith, and instead resorts to stealing it from his father's business.
Appearance & Personality
He is described in the opening as "in his early twenties, not quite at ease, half shy, half assertive".
He seems embarrassed and awkward from the beginning. The first mention of him in the script is "Eric
suddenly guffaws," and then he is unable to explain his laughter, as if he is nervous about something.
He has had a privileged
education, unlike his father.
As the play progresses, the relationship with his father breaks down and the tension soon escalates. He tells his
father he couldn't tell him about Daisy as "you're not the kind of father a chap could go to when he's in trouble".
After the Inspector leaves, he becomes more determined and confident, "cutting in" across his father.
In many ways, Eric is a disappointment to his parents and the opposite of Gerald Croft.
Drinks on stage, needs to steady his nerves, shouts out at times; Mrs Birling
brands him "an excitable boy", however he's usually on stage quietely drinking.
It soon becomes clear to us (although it takes his parents longer) that he is a
hardened drinker. Gerald admits, "I have gathered that he does drink pretty hard".
He has low self esteem and low self confidence which may have led him to drink heavily.
His parents clearly do not take him seriously and their lack of parental
love may also have contributed to his low self esteem and heavy drinking.
He is first presented as a nasty drunk who raped a girl, subsequently making her pregnant.
Priestly also describes Eric as “half shy, half assertive”. This seemingly
duel personality, could highlight Eric’s drinking problems, which through
drunkenness, has left him unsure of himself and without a set personality.