As a preface for an article I’m about to write, I need to write out this point first: the character of Eragon in Paolini’s Inheritance cycle. By the way, spoiler alert. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I would like to firmly establish 3 main points: First, Eragon is not (or at least not supposed to be) a sociopath. Second, the story could be improved if he were. Third, Paolini probably won’t do that.
What do I mean Eragon is not/not supposed to be a sociopath? For one thing, Eragon’s characterization is handled poorly, but as far as I can tell, he’s supposed to be a traditional hero. So, when he goes on these bouts of sociopathy (and there are myriad examples here, ranging from his spurning of Murtagh when his kin probably needed his empathy the most, his treatment of Sloan, and the terrible behavior towards the unarmed, fleeing soldier that I’ve already mentioned in a previous article), I take this as poor characterization. The reason why I don’t say Eragon is a sociopath despite the examples in the text that would seem to indicate it is because, to my mind, that would mean that Paolini is intentionally forging him into a sociopath. Which leads right into the next point.
I think Paolini should make Eragon a sociopath. Frankly, I see that as about the only way of salvaging the story. The story is impossible to finish with Eragon cast as the hero because, even if the 4th book were good and corrected every previous mistake, it would still be dragged to the bottom of the lake by the firm anchors of the first three. However, the 4th story could actually work as a deconstruction of the traditional fantasy hero if we learned by the end of it that 1) Eragon really is a sociopath and 2) the story has been written by an unreliable narrator who’s been trying to tell the story of Eragon in as positive a light as possible (because he’s afraid of the über-strong sociopath with a dragon) while still sticking to the basic facts. But what about the first books?
Well, there are already plenty of examples of Eragon’s sociopathy. If we learned that the good/heroic parts were exaggerated by a scared scribe, they would suddenly make sense. Plus, there are other small clues. Eragon is from Carvahall, and the text tells us that all the people of Carvahall are descended from mad royalty. Perhaps Eragon inherited a touch of madness? Eragon’s mother allied herself with the evil usurpers (or if we go so far as to also recast the bad guys, she later fell for the evil rebel, Brom). How about the vicious double standard between dragons and Ra’zac? They’re both predators that have been known to consume humans, but dragons are noble and can be reasoned with while the Ra’zac are OMG evil! Could this be a writer wary of upsetting the sociopath’s dragon? Notice the amount of pandering that Nasuada does to Eragon and his family. Is she concerned about what might happen to her if he’s not kept happy? Also, look at the relationship between Arya and Eragon. Is she slowly warming up to him, or, as he grows more and more powerful, is she becoming resigned to the fact that he’ll eventually do whatever he wants and there’s little she can say or do to change that?
Granted, this doesn’t fix all the story’s problems (why is Galbatorix content to sit in his throne room letting an opposing Rider run rampant even though he’s supposed to be the most powerful thing in the world and could’ve stomped his enemy flat basically any time he wanted?), but it would be a much more interesting turn of events than anything we’ve seen thus far in the story. It is probably the only way to make the 4th book of any real interest at all.
But it won’t happen.
There are many reasons for this. First, even if he did (or at least read this article), I don’t think it’s the story he wants to tell. He wants to tell a story of a good hero vs. an evil villain—not a sociopath on the good guy’s side vs. an evil villain (or, even darker, a rebel sociopath vs. a benevolent dictator as seen through the history written by the winners). Second, he has no real reason to do this. He’s going to make plenty of money off the 4th book, and, the irony is, if he pulled this kind of last book change on everyone, it would be a better story, but it would also alienate his fanbase and net him less money. In this case, writing the better story would be the less desirable option (at least monetarily).