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Character analysis of Eric Birling

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Transfer-Encoding: chunked ERIC BIRLING Eric Birling works at Birling and Company, his father is presumably his boss. He is the son of Arthur and Sybil Birling and brother of Sheila Birling. He is of roughly the same age and of the same spirit as his sister. During the play, Eric is exposed as a drunkard, the father of an illegitimate unborn child, a liar, a thief and an embezzler. We realise that there is something not quite right with Eric when he is first introduced in the opening stage directions. He is clearly uncomfortable in some way. He is described at the start as ?in his early twenties, not quite at ease, half shy, half assertive.? He has not yet found a meaningful role in life. Eric acts as dramatic irritant to his father challenging his ideology ? contradicting him and interrupting asking questions. Mr.Birling clearly thinks that his son has not benefitted from the expensive education he has given him, because it has been calculated to improve his son?s status, rather than develop a critical approach to life. Eric seems embarrassed and awkward right from the start. 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. ...read more.


- how stupid it all is!? as he tells his story. He is horrified that his thoughtless actions have had such consequences. Eric?s behaviour is not unusual. A lot of men have been doing the same but in secret. It is a pretty murky world where such kind of men inhabits. Eric lacks self control, so his secret gets out. His behaviour disrupts the polite middle class illusion of respectability. They are all keeping up the appearances, but Eric is making it obvious that there is something shadowy underneath. He sees Eva Smith as ?a good sport?; clearly the relationship is just casual fun for him. Eric uses a euphemism to describe his sexual assault on Eva Smith: ?that?s when it happened.? He regrets his actions, but his language shows his immaturity. He calls Eva ?a good sport? and ?pretty? ? this sounds insensitive as we are told how badly he has treated her. Eric says that Eva considered him as a ?kid?. Eric is fragmented in his speech as he becomes emotional and hysterical. He has some innate sense of responsibility, because although he has got a woman pregnant, he has been concerned enough to give her money. Having committed something close to sexual assault, Eric takes a huge risk in stealing money from his father's company to try to make amends. ...read more.


Through Eric, Priestley conveys how the upper class abused their power over the working class (treated Eva Smith ?as if she were an animal, a thing, not a person.?). At the start of the play, he is just like the others ? abusing his power over a working class girl. He is ashamed of his behaviour and shows that he is capable of changing for the better, ?The fact remains that I did what I did.? Therefore, the audience is more likely to forgive him. He represents (with Sheila) the younger generation ? Priestley sees them as ?more impressionable? ? after all, they are the future. He has openly admitted to these problems: the theft, the alcoholism, and the affair. He accepts the consequences of them, as he couldn't live with the burden of a lie upon his shoulders. Eric has been created by Priestley to show that it doesn't matter the money you have, the status you have gained, or the people you know; it's about the honesty, being trustworthy and truthful. By the end of the play, he stands firmly on the side of socialism in the ?Capital versus Labour? debate. Priestley created Eric to show how people should learn to recognize their mistakes. Eric is potentially one of the founders of the next generation; if Eva had lived he could well be a father. It is important that he represents youth and the hope that the dramatic message can be learnt. ...read more.

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