He's the star of our show, the titular character, and the hero that a corrupted world calls out for. Need more? Oh, we got more. As we discuss in "Why Should I Care?" (which we invite you to check out and then zip on back here), the central story of Eragon, in spite of all the magic and monsters, is really the very simple tale of a young man's progress into adulthood, and all the difficulties that this process can entail.
Of course, when you're fifteen, adulthood is probably the last thing on your mind (well, aside from that one episode of The Twilight Zone that your parents always talk about). But sometimes destiny intervenes, as it does when Saphira taps Eragon to be the first of the new Dragon Riders. Sounds like a pretty cool gig, huh? Well... let's chat about that.
We first meet Eragon when he's in the prime of his comfort zone. He's helping out his uncle on the farm and hanging with his cousin in his spare time. It's not a life of luxury, but to Eragon, it's a life of reassuring comfort. Just check out his reaction upon returning to the farm from the hunt: "Home. For the first time since before the hunt, he relaxed completely as sleep overtook him" (2.86). The word "home" even gets the italics treatment. That's saying something.
He better enjoy that relaxation while he can, though, since this kind of peace doesn't last long. Not too long after his head hits the pillow, his cousin ups and takes off, his cool new forest rock hatches a dragon, and the Ra'zac burn down his farm and kill his uncle. The comforts of home, then, are forever lost to Eragon as he's forced into the wider world. As we'll see, though, his thoughts return pretty often to his sleepy village. At his core, Eragon is a homebody. And we think that makes his adventures all the more exciting.
The best thing about the exploratory journey that Eragon undertakes after the murder of his uncle is that we get to go along with him. Like us, everything Eragon sees is new and interesting to him. This book wouldn't be the same if Eragon's reaction was always, "been there, done that, ordered the tunic."
Instead, we see Alagaësia through eyes as fresh as our own, and equally filled with wonder. Check out what Eragon does when he arrives at the port city of Teirm:
Eragon […] eagerly began exploring Teirm. For hours he wandered the streets, entering every shop that struck his fancy and chatting with various people. (26.3)
Despite his attachment to the comforts of home, Eragon is still open enough to embrace the wider world, and everything in it. Not only does this make us jazzed to see more of Alagaësia, and beyond, but it's an important aspect of his character that helps him to become [drumroll please]…
The culmination of Eragon's travels might seem like the moment when he (spoiler alert!) sticks a flaming sword through the heart of that evil Durza the Shade. But Shmoop doesn't like it when things are that tidy. What if the climax of his journey comes later than that? Let's take a look.
Lying in bed, recuperating from his wounds, Eragon realizes
[…] what he had accomplished was worthy of honor, of recognition. No matter what his trials might be in the future, he was no longer a pawn in the game of power. He had transcended that and was something else, something more. (59.14)
Whatever else he has become, by the end of the book, Eragon is definitely an adult. Even though he's just sixteen in human years, he's way beyond that in Dragon Rider years. (We couldn't find the online human to Dragon rider calculator for an exact number—sorry.) By being open to the world around him and, most importantly, willing to learn from it, Eragon is no longer the farm boy he once was. The true triumph of his book is his passage into responsibility, maturity and, ultimately, power.
Even still, he doesn't get there all on his own—throughout the book, he works with a buddy. Let's break this down:
Check it out: right before Brom passes away, Murtagh shows up to help Eragon on his quest. And help he does. When Murtagh springs Eragon from jail at Gil'ead, Eragon says to him, "You risked your life to rescue me; I owe you for that," and we learn that "There [is] a bond between them now, welded in the brotherhood of battle and tempered by the loyalty Murtagh had shown" (42.37). Not long after Eragon loses the man who replaced his family, he's got yet another replacement.
So what's the deal with Eragon's constant companionship? Aside from his obvious partner in crime-fighting (Saphira), Eragon is always in cahoots with someone. Not only do his friendships provide him with support, training, and help in fighting off the forces of evil, but they also enable him to reach new heights of heroism.
Do you think Eragon could have become a Dragon Rider on his own? Can anyone achieve greatness without the help of good friends? We're pretty sure Christopher Paolini offers us a resounding "NO!" for an answer.
Having good friends and a support system in place is obviously key to Eragon's (or anyone's) success. But it's not like Eragon is just Joe Shmoop. Dude is the first of the new Dragon Riders. He's a savior for the people of Tronjheim and a hero to many more than that. We learn that he's been chosen by Saphira for this honor, but wait—what does Saphira know about this guy that makes him a suitable candidate?
In a nutshell, it's his character. Now, don't get confused on us here. Eragon is a character—in the book, that is—but he also has character, too. Lots of it, in fact. When all is said and done, he's just a really, really good guy. Here he is, in a rough and tumble land of monsters, slavers, evil wizards, and worse, but he stays totally uncorrupted. Think about it: he doesn't even want to steal from the greasy toll collector at the bridge to Therinsford.
Good is always at odds with something, right? Say, evil? Well, Eragon's goodness is definitely reflected in his reaction to evil. He just can't understand why something like the massacre at Yazuac could take place; he's too innocent and pure to understand that such evil actually does exist in the world.
And even when confronting that evil, Eragon wants to play by the good guys' rulebook. When Murtagh chops off Torkenbrand the slaver's head, Eragon is furious. He just can't see the point of killing an unarmed man. Even in fighting evil, Eragon's own inner moral compass points him in the direction of the high road.
That's why his ultimate victory is so powerful. It's not just that a guy we happen to like overcomes odds to get what he wants; Eragon's triumph is the triumph of good over evil. (Epic, right?) At the end of the book, the Cripple Who is Whole reminds him (and us) of that fact: "Think of what you have done and rejoice, for you have rid the land of a great evil" (59.13). Eragon embodies pure goodness, inspiring us to be better people, and giving us hope that what is right and honest will defeat what is tainted and corrupt. You can't get much better than that.