No offense to Butler, but The Way of All Flesh reads like a watered-down Dickens novel, with less excitement and flash.
Ernest is wishy-washy and easily influenced, although by the end he finds himself and is doing work which he enjoys. The whole story is about him trying to understand who he is and to make himself different from his father's expectations.
Ernest....is like a wet noodle. He is air-headed and bland. He's rather boring, and so pathetic you can't help but like him. Everyone was more interesting than him, even the narrator. At least Ernest learned something and broke the generational burden his father put on him.