An Inspector Calls

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
Eric is the son of the family. He disapproves of his father’s decision to deny Eva Smith’s request for higher wages, and becomes drunk and upset throughout the course of the evening, which prompts Sheila to expose him as a heavy-drinker, unbeknownst to his parents. In the middle of the play, Eric storms out of the house. When Eric returns, he admits to being exactly the person—Eva Smith’s impregnator—that his mother had most blamed for the girl’s suicide, and to having stolen money from his father. His parents are ashamed of him and continue to remind him what he’s done; but he is likewise ashamed of them for overlooking the true significance of the bad deeds that they all have been exposed as having committed. He joins Sheila in her judgment of their parents’ ignorance and in her regard for the significance of the facts at hand.

Eric Quotes in An Inspector Calls

The An Inspector Calls quotes below are all either spoken by Eric or refer to Eric. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Wealth, Power, and Influence Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dramatists Play Service, Inc. edition of An Inspector Calls published in 1998.
Act 1 Quotes

Birling: It’s a free country, I told them.
Eric: It isn’t if you can’t go and work somewhere else.

Related Characters: Arthur Birling (speaker), Eric (speaker), Eva Smith
Related Symbols: Eva Smith
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

Arthur Birling proceeds to tell the Inspector more about his relationship with Eva Smith. Smith, we learn, was something of a union organizer; she wanted to mobilize the people who worked for Birling to ensure that they'd get better wages and fairer hours. When Smith demanded that Birling pay his employees more, Birling responded in classic capitalist fashion: he told Birling that she was "free" to work somewhere else if she didn't like her wages.

Birling's response to Eva Smith illustrates the flaws in the free market. It's all very well for someone like Birling to preach sanctimoniously about freedom to run one's own business--but at the end of the day, his "philosophy" is just an excuse for his own greediness. As Eric points out, a country isn't truly free if people like Eva can't find a good place to work. Birling's smug definition of freedom, then, is sorely lacking in substance.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other An Inspector Calls quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Act 3 Quotes

There’ll be plenty of time, when I’ve gone, for you all to adjust your family relationships.

Related Characters: Inspector Goole (speaker), Arthur Birling, Mrs. Birling, Sheila, Gerald Croft, Eric
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Birling family has descended into arguing. A once-happy betrothed couple has split up, and everyone else is shouting at one another. The Birlings have learned that they're all greedy, drunk, disloyal, and even complicit in a woman's death. Goole listens to the Birlings arguing, and tells them that they'll have to work out their new "relationships" later--for now, they need to focus on Eva Smith.

Goole's statement can be taken in any number of senses. First, it's a sign that the Birlings, in spite of the new information they've received, are still making a big mistake: they're focusing too exclusively on each other's private faults, instead of showing real compassion for the deceased, or accepting the larger social ramifications of their actions (the fact that because they are so wealthy and powerful, they have undue influence over others). Second, Goole's statement reminds us that his investigation has permanently changed the Birling family. It's possible that the family will be permanently disgraced, or fall apart from within. Yet it's also possible that the Birlings--particularly Sheila--will learn from the experience and try to become better people.

This girl killed herself—and died a horrible death. But each of you helped to kill her. Remember that. Never forget it. But then I don’t think you ever will.

Related Characters: Inspector Goole (speaker), Arthur Birling, Mrs. Birling, Sheila, Gerald Croft, Eric, Eva Smith
Related Symbols: Eva Smith
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

The Inspector comes to the conclusion he's been anticipating this entire time. He's shown the Birling family that they caused the death of Eva Smith: in various ways, each Birling (and Gerald) has ruined Smith's life and pushed her to kill herself. Goole predicts that the Birlings will never be able to forget their sins.

Why, exactly, did Goole come to visit the Birlings? His visit seems far different from that of a typical police officer: he seems more philosophical, and more concerned with morality than with solving a crime. It's as if Goole just wants to teach the Birlings a lesson about the importance of personal responsibility. While Arthur Birling wants to believe that it's "every man for himself," Goole has endeavored to prove the opposite point of view.

Whoever that chap was, the fact remains that I did what I did. And Mother did what she did. And the rest of you did what you did to her. It’s still the same rotten story whether it’s been told to a police inspector or to somebody else.

Related Characters: Eric (speaker), Mrs. Birling, Inspector Goole
Related Symbols: Eva Smith
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

Sheila isn't the only one who's learned a valuable lesson from Inspector Goole. Eric, Sheila's sister, agrees that it doesn't matter whether or not Inspector Goole was a "real" police officer or not. Goole's credentials don't change the fact that Eric did what Goole said he did: he impregnated an unmarried woman and then abandoned her.

The passage reinforces the possibility that some of the characters will choose to learn from their mistakes. Eric probably won't face any actual punishment from society for his actions, and yet it seems that he'll try to be more morally upright in the future, never again hypocritically claiming to be a "good" man when he's not.

Get the entire An Inspector Calls LitChart as a printable PDF.
An inspector calls.pdf.medium

Eric Character Timeline in An Inspector Calls

The timeline below shows where the character Eric appears in An Inspector Calls. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Wealth, Power, and Influence Theme Icon
Class Politics Theme Icon
...and appears to be excited about life. Gerald Croft is an attractive thirty-year old man-about-town. Eric is in his mid-twenties and appears a little uneasy. The family is celebrating a special... (full context)
Wealth, Power, and Influence Theme Icon
Eric begins to laugh uncontrollably and rises from his chair. Sheila inquires what he is laughing... (full context)
Wealth, Power, and Influence Theme Icon
Class Politics Theme Icon
...and to rest assured that the notion that war is inevitable is “fiddlesticks.” He promises Eric, Gerald, and Sheila that in twenty or thirty years everyone will have forgotten about the... (full context)
Wealth, Power, and Influence Theme Icon
Class Politics Theme Icon
Mrs. Birling leaves with Sheila and Eric, who is whistling “Rule Britannia,” and Birling sits down with Gerald. Birling tells Gerald, in... (full context)
Wealth, Power, and Influence Theme Icon
Eric re-enters the room, sits down and pours himself a glass of port. He reports, dismissively,... (full context)
Wealth, Power, and Influence Theme Icon
Blame and Responsibility Theme Icon
Class Politics Theme Icon
Birling begins in again on his lecture. He tells Eric and Gerald that a man has to “make his own way,” and not listen to... (full context)
Blame and Responsibility Theme Icon
Morality and Legality Theme Icon
Gerald and Eric attempt to look at the photograph as well, but the Inspector does not allow them,... (full context)
Wealth, Power, and Influence Theme Icon
Blame and Responsibility Theme Icon
Class Politics Theme Icon
...that he does remember Eva Smith, and that he had discharged her from his factory. Eric wonders aloud whether it was because of Birling’s discharging her that she killed herself. Gerald... (full context)
Wealth, Power, and Influence Theme Icon
Blame and Responsibility Theme Icon
Class Politics Theme Icon
Eric chimes in with a reference to his father’s previous pep talk, and Birling explains to... (full context)
Wealth, Power, and Influence Theme Icon
Blame and Responsibility Theme Icon
Morality and Legality Theme Icon
After the Inspector expresses allegiance with Eric’s disapproval, Birling inquires how well the Inspector knows Chief Constable. The Inspector replies that he... (full context)
Wealth, Power, and Influence Theme Icon
Blame and Responsibility Theme Icon
Class Politics Theme Icon
Eric continues to ask his father why the girls shouldn’t have demanded higher wages, and adds... (full context)
Wealth, Power, and Influence Theme Icon
Blame and Responsibility Theme Icon
Morality and Legality Theme Icon
...but the Inspector reiterates his preference for maintaining one line of inquiry at a time. Eric exasperatedly interjects that he’s had enough and makes to leave, but the Inspector insists that... (full context)
Blame and Responsibility Theme Icon
Public versus Private Theme Icon
...mention of the name, Gerald looks startled and pours himself a drink. The Inspector and Eric depart, leaving Gerald and Sheila alone; Sheila questions Gerald about his startling at Daisy’s name,... (full context)
Act 2
Public versus Private Theme Icon
Mrs. Birling reports that her husband is in the other room calming Eric down from his excitable mood. When she explains that her son isn’t used to drinking... (full context)
Blame and Responsibility Theme Icon
Birling enters and reports that Eric has refused to go to bed as his father asked him, because the Inspector has... (full context)
Blame and Responsibility Theme Icon
The front door slams, and there is some question about whether Gerald has returned or Eric has left. The Inspector continues his interrogation of Mrs. Birling by identifying her as a... (full context)
Blame and Responsibility Theme Icon
Class Politics Theme Icon
Morality and Legality Theme Icon
...if she doesn’t see what’s going on, right after the Inspector voices his eagerness for Eric’s return. When the door slams, signifying Eric’s return, Mrs. Birling finally understands and asks the... (full context)
Act 3
Blame and Responsibility Theme Icon
Public versus Private Theme Icon
The scene is the same as at the end of Act 2. Eric is standing near the entrance of the room and asks if they know. The Inspector... (full context)
Blame and Responsibility Theme Icon
Eric pours himself a drink and begins to explain his story: he met the girl the... (full context)
Blame and Responsibility Theme Icon
Public versus Private Theme Icon
Morality and Legality Theme Icon
When Mr. Birling asks where the fifty pounds came from, Eric confesses that he took it from his father’s office. Mrs. Birling enters again, curious, and... (full context)
Blame and Responsibility Theme Icon
Public versus Private Theme Icon
The Inspector leadingly asks Eric if the girl found out that his money had been stolen, and Eric says that... (full context)
Wealth, Power, and Influence Theme Icon
Blame and Responsibility Theme Icon
Morality and Legality Theme Icon
Sheila is left crying, Mrs. Birling is collapsed in a chair, Eric is brooding, and Birling pours himself a drink and then tells Eric that he considers... (full context)
Morality and Legality Theme Icon
...matches his description. Birling exclaims that this makes all the difference, and again Sheila and Eric insist that it doesn’t. Birling reasons that the inspection was probably set up by someone... (full context)
Morality and Legality Theme Icon
Birling demands that Eric, who is looking sulky, begin to take some interest in the matter. Eric responds that... (full context)
Morality and Legality Theme Icon
Gerald proposes that the one fact that Eric and Sheila are assigning great significance—that Eva Smith is dead—may not even be a fact... (full context)
Morality and Legality Theme Icon
Eric still doesn’t believe Gerald’s claim, and insists that the girl that he got pregnant was... (full context)
Morality and Legality Theme Icon
...remains important, and that it was only lucky that it didn’t end tragically this time. Eric joins her in refusing to pretend that everything is as it was before. Sheila articulates... (full context)