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Behind the mask of a typical English detective, An Inspector Calls (1945) discusses deep topics and raises important questions that we all need to think about. The film is an adaptation of the play of the same name and, in general, does not deviate from the text of the work. Despite the small timing and budget, the characters are perceived as absolutely real people. Perhaps the point is the canonicity of the images, but one cannot fail to note the well-chosen cast and amazing atmosphere. We will talk about one of the main characters, namely Eric Birling, and analyze his role in this story.
An Inspector Calls and Eric Birling Analysis
In the house of a wealthy manufacturer Arthur Birling, on a holiday, his daughter Sheila got engaged to the son of Arthur's business partner, Gerald Croft. A fun party is interrupted by an unexpected visit from Police Inspector Gull. At first glance, the news that the minister of law reports has nothing to do with the Birling family, a young woman, Eva Smith, committed suicide. The meticulous inspector finds out that each of the family at least once in his life encountered Eva and did something that brought her to the brink (James 42). The secrets that were safely buried in the hidden corners of the soul of each of the families were pulled out into the light.
At first, the message of the police inspector about the suicide of a certain Eva Smith does not make much impression on the audience, perhaps they are only slightly annoyed by the violation of the festive dinner, the engagement of Birling's daughter Sheila and the young aristocrat Gerald Croft is celebrated. It is revealed, however, that the death of the girl was the result of the direct complicity of all those present.
Eric Birling, Birling's son, enters a relationship with her, and she is expecting a child from him. The young rake offers money that Eva, a man who has retained deep inner dignity, cannot accept, he knows that it has been stolen. This characterizes him as a character who wants to help and feels responsible for his own actions. However, he could not do the right thing, could not earn honestly, and support the girl who became pregnant with him. This, in fact, says much about the general upbringing in the house, about the relationship with each other (James 50). Eric, as a son, is not the master of the house and behaves like a rather weak person. In addition, he is fond of alcohol, which is why he met Eva and imposed himself on her.
All the above is followed by a tragic ending. The play ends with a phone call from Arthur, who reveals that the young woman has died (a suspected suicide) and that the police are going to question them. Goole’s identity remains unclear, but all of the family's confessions during the evening were apparently true, and they would soon be brought to public shame and disgrace (“Eric Birling in An Inspector Calls – Characters Overview”). The play is, thus, more a dramatic than detective one. Throughout his work, John Priestly managed to demonstrate that certain human secrets might be even more horrible than a real murder or suicide itself.
Arthur Birling himself, his wife Sybil, children Sheila and Eric, Sheila's fiancé Gerald, they are all forced to confess their own sins. But only two were able to repent of them, the rest, although they confessed to their deeds, considered their actions completely innocent. And only the threat of public censure, and not at all the death of an innocent girl, driven by them to suicide, worries a respectable family. The story has an unexpected ending, there are many more questions than answers, and the whole story seems like a farce. In fact, the moral of the story is that the Birling family had a chance to turn things around, but they did not take that chance.
"Eric Birling in An Inspector Calls - Characters Overview". BBC Bitesize, 2022, https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zwscxsg/revision/5.
James, David. An Inspector Calls For GCSE. Hachette UK, 2016.
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