An Inspector Calls

Surprising Sympathy: Eric and His Audience 10th Grade

Throughout the opening scenes of Priestley's An Inspector Calls, Eric is portrayed as little more than a drunken child ('only a boy', as his Mother would have put it). If the work is considered to be a morality play, then Eric is perhaps guilty of the sins of lust, gluttony and sloth. Later in the play, however, despite the revelations of his poor treatment of Eva Smith, the audience does gain some sympathy for him as we realise he is a sensitive and rather 'lost' character, who perhaps longs for a more supportive and fulfiling relationship with his family.

Even at the opening of the play, Eric appears to be an outsider. The opening stage directions describe him as being 'not quite at ease' and Priestley emphasises that he is 'half-shy, half-assertive' and therefore at odds with the other characters, i.e. the 'easy well-bred Gerald' and the 'heavy-looking, rather portentous' Arthur Birling. Eric says very little in Act One - speaking only to congratulate and tease his sister on her engagement ('she's got a nasty temper sometimes - but she's not bad really'.) and to laugh at their solemnity ('Eric suddely guffaws'). Indeed, throughout Act One there are a number of hints that Eric has had rather too much to drink ('You're...

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