An Inspector Calls Questions and Answers
by J. B. Priestley

Start Your Free Trial

In An Inspector Calls by John Boynton Priestley, what does Eric Birling do to Eva Smith?    

Expert Answers info

Carter Westfall eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

bookB.A. from University of the Western Cape, South Africa

calendarEducator since 2014

write1,246 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

On Inspector Goole's probing, Eric confesses that he had met Eva Smith at the Palace Bar one evening in Novemeber. He further admits that he was there with a few friends and had been a bit drunk. He then began talking to her and bought her a few drinks. By the time they were ready to leave, he was quite drunk or, as he calls it, 'far gone.'

Eva told him that she was also somewhat drunk because she had not eaten much that day. He then mentions, on Inspector Goole's question, that he insisted on accompanying Eva to her apartment. He makes it clear that Eva later mentioned that she did not want him to enter her rooms but because he was inebriated, he became quite pushy and threatened that he would create a scene if she refused him entry. Obviously, to avoid any complications for especially herself, Eva's hand was forced and she allowed him into her lodgings.

Eric then says, 'And that's when it happened.' He mentions that he he did not even remember the incident, which was the worst of it. It is evident that the two were intimate and Eric regrets the fact that he had pushed the poor girl so far that she was practically forced into having intercourse with him.

In response to Inspector Goole's question about when they met again, Eric answers that they bumped into each other two weeks later, also at the Palace Bar. He could not even remember her name or where she lived because it was all too vague to him. They started chatting and he, once again, accompanied her to her rooms. This time, however, he was not as drunk.

On this particular occasion, they exchanged information and Eva told him something about her family whilst he divulged his name and what he did. The relationship had become more personal. He also admits that they made love again. At this point, Eric states that he was not in love with Eva but that he liked her since 'she was pretty and a good sport.' He then states that Eva told him some time later, he cannot recall exactly when, that she was pregnant.

Eric confesses that he was quite worried upon receiving this news. Eva was, too, but she did not want to marry him because he did not love her. Eric also states that she treated him like a child even though they were practically the same age. He did, however, feel compelled to help her and started giving her money until she refused to take any more. He later admits that he had stolen the money from his father's business - fifty pounds in all - and Eva refused to accept any more when she found out.

After the Inspector's grilling, Eric finds out that his mother had had contact with Eva when she approached her charity organisation for help. Mrs Birling, as chairperson, refused her any assistance. Eric is so overwhelmed by this revelation that he turns against his mother and says the following:

Then – you killed her. She came to you to protect me – and you turned her away – yes, and you killed her – and the child she'd have had too – my child – your own grandchild – you killed them both – damn you, damn you -

He is almost at his breaking point, probably overcome not only by his mother's haughty and cold disdain, but also by his own guilt.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial