How does Priestley express ideas about Eric Birling in 'An Inspector Calls'

Authors Avatar by Seanreeves1gmailcom (student)

How does Priestley express ideas about Eric Birling in ‘An Inspector Calls’

Eric’s Drinking

One explanation for Eric’s drinking perhaps is the hypocrisy of his family, and Eric feels he has to join in with the male dominated culture in society. For example when Gerald suggests he is going to be careful Eric expresses his amusement; “Eric suddenly guffaws. His parents look at him” this is the strongest suggestion yet that Eric is aware of Gerald’s affair, if not the exact specifics. When asked by Sheila what was causing his amusement Eric replies; “I don’t know – really. Suddenly I felt I just had to laugh” this shows how Eric defends the male and shows how Eric has to defend the male power not the female power. This could suggest that the hypocrisy of Gerald who is highly esteemed by his family had led to Eric’s frustration and led him on a path to alcoholism.

Eva’s Sacking + Capitalism

Eric clearly shows much more sympathy to Priestley’s views than that of his father.  Discussing Eva Smith’s death, Eric suggests; “Why shouldn’t they try for higher wages? We try for the highest possible prices? … you said yourself she was a good worker” this shows how Eric is questioning not only the decision making of his father but also Mr. Birling’s view on society. Mr. Birling is a keen advocate of everybody “looking after himself” but when a lower class workers attempts to improve their life changes Mr. Birling is contradictory and fires Eva. Showing how Eric’s rhetorical question of “Why shouldn’t they try for higher wages?” shows how Eric is almost representing Priestley’s views of the selfish, aggressive form of capitalism, which Mr. Birling represents.

Join now!



When Eric’s affair comes to light, his choice of language leaves ambiguity to the reader about the nature of Eric’s affair. Did Eric force himself upon Eva? Or was Eric showing sympathy and attention to an innocent girl? Eric states to the inspector; “She wasn’t the usual sort. But – well, I suppose she didn’t know what to do” by suggesting she wasn’t “the usual sort” suggests that it is Eva innocence and desperation that causes Eric to be attracted to Eva, this could lead us to have sympathy for Eric. As if here were to see ...

This is a preview of the whole essay