ANALYSIS: An Enemy Of The People

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ANALYSIS: An Enemy Of The People
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Have you ever felt that everyone around you is completely absurd? Have you ever thought that perhaps you were the only reasonable or intelligent person left in the whole world? If so, you might get along well with Dr. Stockmann, the hero of Ibsen's An Enemy of the People. When the people in Dr. Stockmann's town all turn against him for trying to reveal the truth of their polluted water, the Doctor goes on the warpath.

Dr. Stockmann comes to realize that the real pollution around him isn't necessarily the bacteria-ridden water; instead it's the ignorant masses. His basic argument is that the majority of people are too foolish to know what's best for them, therefore majority rule is an inherently foolish system. Wait a minute…isn't the rule of the majority kind of the foundation of democracy? Whoever and whatever gets the most votes wins, right?

The Doctor says that society ought to be ruled by the intellectually superior (like himself). In his opinion the people who are the smartest might just be in a position to make the best decisions. What do you think? Is this a reasonable argument or an elitist opinion? Whatever you think, it's still pretty edgy. Read on to see if you agree.

ANALYSIS:

Dr. Stockmann makes a discovery that he thinks will help the town. He presses for changes to be made to the baths, but the town turns on him. Not only have his scientific experiments been a waste of time, and not only will the townspeople suffer, but his freedom of speech and self-respect are being attacked. He then decides that the only reason that the leaders have turned on him is that they are afraid of the people. He, thus, lashes out at the people. He is motivated both by his anger and by true realizations about the corruption of the town. It can be concluded that An Enemy of the People has two key messages.

First, it is a criticism of democracy. Second, it is the story of how one man's bravery and self-respect can survive overwhelming odds.Ibsen's critique of democracy is twofold. First, he shows the tyranny of the majority. The majority is a tyrant insofar as the leaders of society are afraid to do what is right because they are at the people's mercy. Even though Hovstad wanted to print the doctor's report on the baths, he was afraid to do so because his subscribers would be upset. The mayor cannot propose any changes to the baths because the public might find out that the mayor had made a mistake in the original plans and, thus, oust him. The majority is afraid of risk and, according to the doctor, it is not intelligent enough to do what is right.While Ibsen illustrates the tyranny of the majority, he also shows how leaders can manipulate the majority. When Aslaksen and the mayor take control of the town meeting, they are manipulating the majority, using the majority to their ends.

It could be that Hovstad merely cited his subscribers' possible wrath as an excuse because he himself did not want to print the article. More likely, both he and his subscribers would have been against the doctor. Those who are in power, like Hovstad and the mayor, automatically guess what the majority will want, and they always try to please the majority. While Aslaksen and the mayor manipulated the audience at the town meeting, they influenced them in the only way possible. In other words, it would have been almost impossible for the mayor to convince the crowd that they should support the doctor's comments about the stupidity of the masses. Ibsen's idea is that the majority does not rule directly; instead, the idea and threat of the majority keeps leaders from acting honestly.The personal story of Dr. Stockmann is secondary. The key thing to remember is that he is extremely idealistic and maybe even a little naive and foolish. His wife, after all, feels compelled to remind him of practicalities.


Let's now go to chapter summaries, one by one.

 

 

 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
(This post was last modified: 03-04-2014 11:35 AM by Given.)
03-04-2014 11:32 AM
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ACT 1

The scene is Dr. Stockmann's living room; the dining room is visible through a door downstage. Mrs. Stockmann welcomes Billing to her dinner table. He is late, and so the meat is cold. There is a knock at the door; it is her brother-in-law, the mayor. He says he doesn't want to indulge in so much food so late at night. Hovstad, the editor, arrives. He and the mayor greet each other stiffly and begin talking about the baths. They both agree that the new baths are going to be very good for the town. It is mentioned that the baths were originally Dr. Stockmann's idea, a suggestion that upsets the mayor. Hovstad goes to eat, and soon Dr. Stockmann arrives. With him he brings his two sons, Eilif and Morten, and Captain Horster, another late guest for dinner. He shows him into the dining room before noticing the mayor. The mayor is surprised to see how much the guests eat. The doctor counters by talking about the excitement of watching young people eat--young people who will eventually grow up and improve society. He contrasts them with "old fossils" like himself and the mayor, who is slightly perturbed by these notions. He comforts the mayor by mentioning how happy he is to be living in a city and to have a sturdy income.The mayor asks Dr. Stockmann about an article he has written for Hovstad's newspaper.

The doctor quickly says that he hopes the article will not be printed just yet as it may not be appropriate depending on some developments that the doctor is as yet unsure of. The mayor is aggravated that the doctor will not tell him what he is talking about, and he tells Dr. Stockmann that he should think more of how to function within a society and less as an individual. Angrily, he leaves.Hovstad, Billing, Horster, and Mrs. Stockmann come in for liqueurs and cigarettes. Hovstad talks of the rocky relationship between the mayor and the People's Herald. Horster says that he is sailing for America soon, and the two newspapermen, Billing and Hovstad, are shocked that he doesn't care that he will miss the upcoming election. Petra enters, tired from teaching her night school classes. She has a letter that Dr. Stockmann has been eagerly looking for. He goes into the study to read it. Meanwhile, Petra and the newspapermen start up a discussion of paganism. Meanwhile, Billing and Hovstad decry the hypocrisy that Petra must go through as a teacher.Dr. Stockmann comes in waving the letter. He says that no one will be able to call this discovery another one of his delusions. Apparently, the baths, which are viewed as the savior of the town, are polluted. The doctor sent samples from the water to a lab, and now the results are back, in the letter he has received. Milldale, near the source of the baths' water, is full of polluted water that seeps into the baths' pump room.

The pollution comes from tanneries and other industry. Dr. Stockmann assures everyone that the problem can be fixed by replacing the water system. The doctor further notes that if the town had followed his advice about how to build the drains in the first place, they would not have had these problems. The group is very enthusiastic and praises the doctor for saving the town.CommentaryMany of the characters in An Enemy of the People are very concerned with politics. The mayor is interested in maintaining his position. He is very disturbed when Dr. Stockmann talks of a younger generation growing up to change things. He also seems very insecure, which is no doubt related to the rather competitive spirit shared by him and his brother. The popular opinion that the baths were the idea of Dr. Stockmann enrages the mayor. The doctor is a very complicated character. He is very pleased with the material trappings of his living room, available to him now that he has the position of medical officer at the baths. The doctor lived a very poor existence for a long time, in the countryside. It is unclear why he was poor in the countryside while his brother was rising through the political hierarchy of the town.
More than anything, the doctor seems to be a very enthusiastic, idealistic man--a cross between a revolutionary and an absentminded professor.Petra shares the doctor's fervent belief in truth and freethinking, as revealed by her discussion with Hovstad and Billing. Mrs. Stockmann, on the other hand, is much more moderate. Although she believes in these ideals, she realizes that they have their limits. As the play progresses, she encourages her husband to consider his family's well-being before he speaks out on controversial issues.

The term "freethinking" is used often in the play. Almost all the characters, except for Aslaksen and the mayor, claim to be freethinkers; it is important to note which of them sticks by their claims and to see exactly what the term "freethinking" means in a closely knit democracy.     

 

 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
03-04-2014 11:34 AM
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ACT 2

The setting is again Dr. Stockmann's living room. Mrs. Stockmann gives him a letter. It is the report on the pollution of the baths that he had sent off to his brother the mayor. It has been returned, with a note that the mayor will come by to speak with the doctor. He and Mrs. Stockmann agree that the mayor is probably jealous that Dr. Stockmann made the discovery. Morten Kiil stops by. He is delighted by the "monkeyshine" that Stockmann has invented and says that he will laugh if the city leaders are stupid enough to believe it. He emphasizes that the "tiny animals" in the water are too little to see.
Hovstad enters, and he and the doctor go to speak in private. Hovstad tells the doctor that he hopes to use the information about the pollution of the baths as a starting point for an all-out attack on the city's leadership. He says that the real pollution comes from them. The doctor agrees that conservatism is bad, but he is hesitant to attack the town's leadership, which is made up of the most qualified men, including his own brother.Aslaksen stops by. He wants to assure Dr. Stockmann that he can count on the support of the Temperance Society and the powerful Homeowners Association. Aslaksen is the chairman of the latter. He wants to stage a moderate demonstration in favor of fixing the baths. Dr. Stockmann does not think this will be necessary, as he is convinced that the baths' board of directors will see that the repairs are necessary. Aslaksen emphasizes that he does not want to upset the town leaders. Dr. Stockmann is quite moved by Aslaksen's support.After Aslaksen leaves, Hovstad calls him a cowardly, if decent, man. Dr. Stockmann is confused, but he tells Hovstad that if the mayor refuses to make changes to the water system--as unthinkable as this seems to the doctor--Hovstad an print the doctor's entire report in the paper. The editor leaves, and Dr. Stockmann goes to talk with his family. He tells them he is very proud to have the "solid majority" behind him.

The mayor arrives. He is upset that the doctor conducted the investigation without telling him. He is concerned that the report exaggerates the situation. He says that the cost to make the suggested repairs would be very expensive and take two years. He says that he is not convinced that there is a real problem. He goes on to describe how losing the baths would be a catastrophe to the town's economy. He says that the board might be willing to make some changes in a few years.Dr. Stockmann is outraged. Throughout his speech, he makes amazed interjections. He says that he will not submit to the fraud that the mayor is suggesting. The mayor insists that nothing about the pollution must reach the public, but the doctor tells him that the People's Herald will support him and print a story about it. The mayor responds by talking about what a helpful brother he's been--getting the doctor a job--and he goes on to say that he hoped to gain control of the doctor by employing him. Now, the doctor will lose his job if he does not cooperate. The mayor feels that the doctor is out of control, an embarrassment to himself and to the city. The brothers rehash their argument over who is responsible for the baths. Dr. Stockmann reminds his brother that if his original plan had been followed, there would be no problem. The mayor insists that the doctor merely cannot submit to authority. He demands that the doctor "conduct further studies" and make a public announcement that his findings were false. He asserts that, when acting as an employee, the doctor has no individual rights. At this moment, Petra, who has been listening at the door, bursts in and tells her father that he must stand up for himself. The mayor urges Mrs. Stockmann to try to have some practical influence over her husband. The mayor leaves. Mrs. Stockmann tries to convince her husband that he doesn't have the power to take on his brother. She urges him to remember his family, but Petra protests. Dr. Stockmann explains that he will never be happy if he bows to the mayor's demands, and when his family is mentioned, he explains that he will never be able to look his sons in the eyes if he doesn't keep trying.

Commentary

The plot of this play traces the changing popularity of Dr. Stockmann's proposal. In the first act, everyone seemed to support it. In this act, however, the audience sees how the townspeople react in different ways to his proposal to fix the baths.Morten Kiil thinks that the proposal is a joke. He notes that the bacteria that are supposedly polluting the water are invisible. Even Hovstad's enthusiastic support foreshadows danger. He wants to use the report to topple the local bureaucracy. He seems to be interested in how useful the report is to him. In other words, if someone can convince him that publicizing the report is not in his best interests, he might not print it. Aslaksen supports the move to fix the baths, but already he shows himself to be prudent to a fault.
If the mayor can make the project look risky or dangerous to Aslaksen, he might withdraw his support.The mayor raises a number of solid complaints against Dr. Stockmann's proposal to fix the baths. It is easy to root for the doctor and to see the mayor as a corrupt politician, but it is not Ibsen's intent to create a play of good versus evil. The doctor is perhaps too surprised by the mayor's resistance. He wants complete agreement or he is ready to go to war. Furthermore, it should be remembered that the play was written in the late nineteenth century and that it is not surprising that people are skeptical when told about bacteria. The doctor also appears to have a long history of coming up with eccentric plans.The doctor, however, clings to his idea, just as he clings to his moral obligation to publicize his findings and to save the people from the consequences of bathing in polluted water. He is an idealist, but he is also an innocent. He doesn't understand Hovstad's interest in manipulating the pollution discovery to other purposes, and he was unable to predict the many economic and political consequences of his findings.

This play, in many ways, is about the extent to which individual innocence can survive in modern society.

 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
03-04-2014 11:41 AM
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ACT 3

The set is the editorial office at the People's Herald. Hovstad is writing at the desk. Billing enters with Dr. Stockmann's report. They discuss the doctor's powerful writing and how they hope to use it to attack the government. Aslaksen is in the other room, and they are careful not to let him hear. Hovstad is excited, because if the mayor accepts the doctor's proposal, he will face the fury of the big stockholders, and if he rejects it, he will face the giant Homeowners Association. Dr. Stockmann enters and tells them about his argument with the mayor. The three are excited to "tear down" the current administration. Aslaksen enters, and they assure him that both the radicals and the moderates will want to support the doctor. The doctor asks him to pay special attention to his report to make sure that are no typos or mistakes.

The doctor is deeply moved by their support and encouragement.After he leaves, Hovstad and Aslaksen agree that Dr. Stockmann will be very useful to them, although for different reasons. Aslaksen is worried that the doctor is not prudent enough, but Hovstad wants to use him as a political firebrand. Changing the subject, Aslaksen mentions that Governor Stensgard sat in Hovstad's editor's chair before him. Billing says something about mixing radical journalism and politics, and Aslaksen reminds Billing that he himself is running for council secretary. Billing assures them that he is only doing it to annoy the establishment.Aslaksen steps out, and Billing and Hovstad discuss how much they would like to get rid of him. They depend on him because he lets them print on credit. They wonder whether Dr. Stockmann might be able to help finance the paper. He will likely become wealthy, since the rich Morten Kiil will probably remember the Stockmanns in his will. Billing leaves and Petra enters. She had agreed to translate an English story for the paper, but now she refuses, on the grounds that its content is against everything for which the paper stands. The article is about a higher purpose guiding people's actions. Hovstad replies that Billing, who Petra is in some manner courting, thought the piece would be good fodder to keep the paper's simpler readers happy. Petra is shocked to hear that Billing would be so calculating, and Hovstad also mentions Billing's run for secretary. Petra still refuses to do the piece, but she thanks Hovstad for his support of her father. He implies that it makes it easier that she is his daughter, and Petra leaves, disgusted.The mayor arrives, to Hovstad's surprise. The mayor comments on how nicely the paper is set up. He begins to talk about the doctor's proposal for the baths, but Hovstad plays dumb, until the mayor notices the doctor's report laying on the desk.

The mayor tells Hovstad and Aslaksen that if the doctor's plan for the baths goes through, it will mean a huge sacrifice for the town. The expenses will have to come out of a municipal loan, and the baths will have to be shut down for two years. Hovstad and Aslaksen begin to change their minds about supporting Dr. Stockmann. The mayor assures them that the doctor's report is pure fantasy. Suddenly, they see that Dr. Stockmann himself is approaching, and the mayor hides in a side room.The doctor wants to see the proofs of his article, but they're not yet ready. He expresses to the two men that if any kind of celebration is being planned in his honor, he wants them to put a stop to it. Just as Hovstad is trying to tell the doctor how things really stand, Mrs. Stockmann enters. She has come to tell Dr. Stockmann not to throw away the livelihood of his family by printing his article. The doctor reminds her that he has the solid majority behind him, and she tells him that it's a horrible thing to have behind him. He tells her to go home while he worries about society. Then, he notices the mayor's ceremonial hat and cane lying on a chair. He guesses that the mayor is nearby, puts on the hat, and begins to parade about the office, until the mayor comes out in a fury. The doctor mocks his brother, convinced that he has everyone's support. 

Aslaksen and Hovstad tell him they won't print the article. Hovstad won't dare, because the subscribers control the paper and the proposal would ruin the town. The mayor gives Hovstad an official statement he can print to quell any rumors. The doctor resolves to hold a public meeting, but Aslaksen tells him that he won't find an organization to give him a hall.

Commentary

In the second act, we saw the mayor turn on Dr. Stockmann. When that happened, the doctor still felt confident because he had the People's Herald behind him. In the third act, we see Hovstad and Aslaksen turn against him. The mayor has an easy time convincing them to turn against Dr. Stockmann. It is no surprise that economic arguments and the lack of visible evidence can be used to change Hovstad's mind.But Ibsen goes further and shows us that Hovstad is simply not a reliable character. We learn that his support of the doctor is partly motivated by his affection for Petra. He even betrays his friend Billing for the sake of getting closer to Petra. Even before the mayor arrives and speaks to Hovstad and Aslaksen, they are discussing how they can use the doctor for their various ends. From the beginning, Hovstad is eager to use the doctor as a way to stimulate some sort of political revolution. When the mayor brings his carefully crafted arguments to men whose integrity is already compromised, they are easily won over to his side.While the mayor and the doctor remain consistent in their opinions throughout the play, the newspapermen's ideas change.
The mayor and the doctor have clear motivations: The mayor wants to stay in power, whereas the doctor is concerned with morality and science but not with economics or politics. The newspapermen, on the other hand, have many motivations, and, therefore, they can't come to a clear conclusion. Hovstad is a leftist radical, but he also wants to keep the paper in business, and he is interested in Petra. Ibsen uses these characters to illustrate how difficult it is to have a clear opinion in modern society. Hovstad can't afford to have a dangerous opinion and is, therefore, helpless when the mayor or the doctor has the upper hand.Mrs. Stockmann is committed to her husband, but she is also committed to her family. When the doctor endangers the rest of his family by throwing away his job, she doesn't know what to do. She feels that Hovstad is fooling the doctor, and when Hovstad and all the other men turn on her husband, she feels that her husband has been led into a trap. It appears to her that the doctor has consistently tried to do what is best and has been somehow led into a very dangerous position by these men.A few miscellaneous things should be explained. The mention of "Governor Stensgard" by Aslaksen is an allusion to Ibsen's early play, The League of Youth, in which Stensgard was a central character. Aslaksen was also a minor character in that play.

 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
03-04-2014 11:44 AM
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ACT 4

The setting is a large hall in Captain Horster's house. It is crowded with townspeople. A number of them are discussing the meeting, and they decide to watch how Aslaksen responds to the issues presented. Billing is there to cover the meeting for the paper. Horster leads in Mrs. Stockmann and the children and sits them close to the door, so they can exit quickly if need be. Hovstad, Aslaksen, and Mayor Stockmann enter and take up different positions around the room. Dr. Stockmann enters to tentative applause and hissing. Aslaksen quickly motions that a chairman be appointed, and he is quickly elected to be chair. The mayor immediately moves that Dr. Stockmann not be allowed to read his report or talk about the baths, whipping up support from the crowd. He and Aslaksen work together to convince the crowd that the doctor is out to harm the town's best interests. Hovstad joins in and talks about the welfare of the Stockmann family.
The motion passes. Dr. Stockmann is angry. Just as he is about to speak, a drunk wanders in and demands for his right to be heard, but he is quickly ejected. Not permitted to speak about the pollution in the baths, the doctor begins to speak about the pollution in the towns. He talks of how he conceived the idea of the baths because he wanted to work for the people. But then, he says, he realized the "colossal stupidity of the authorities." Aslaksen tries to quiet him, but he continues. He is talking about the failures of his brother the mayor, when the drunk enters again and is quickly thrown out. The doctor continues, saying that the authorities are not the worst enemies. The worst enemy, he says, is the majority. The crowd goes wild with anger. Aslaksen urges the doctor to back his remarks. The doctor says that stupid people are in the majority and that power should lie in the hands of the minority. He says he does not advocate aristocracy, but for the intelligent, freethinking minority. He says the idea of the common, crass majority being in the right is an outdated truth. He asks Hovstad if, being another freethinker, he doesn't agree with him, but Hovstad merely shouts that nowhere in print can it be proven that he is a freethinker. The doctor continues, comparing the masses to mongrels and the intelligent minority to purebreds. He attacks Hovstad for not agreeing with him, and Hovstad shouts out that he is descended from peasants and believes in the people. The doctor sums up by saying that morality and freethinking go hand in hand. He insists that his message will be heard and threatens to write to newspapers in other towns.Hovstad declares that the doctor must be an enemy of the people, and, in his excitement, Dr. Stockmann agrees, urging that the town should be wiped out, that vermin should be destroyed. Aslaksen proposes that the meeting declare the doctor "an enemy of the people."

While Aslaksen is collecting the votes, Billings explains to several men that the doctor often drinks and that he had recently been denied a raise. Morten Kiil approaches the doctor and says that if his tanneries are implicated in bad publicity about pollution, the doctor may suffer. Aslaksen announces that by a unanimous vote Dr. Stockmann has been declared an enemy of the people. He leaves with his family, as the crowd chants "enemy."

Commentary

This act represents the climax of the play. We see Dr. Stockmann at his most impassioned and the rest of the town at its most conservative and conspiratorial. The men who were having dinner at Dr. Stockmann's house in the first act are publicly denouncing him, and he is denouncing them.The doctor's point about the tyranny of the majority is complex. It is certainly not Ibsen's invention. The English political philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote along similar lines earlier in the nineteenth century. It would be hasty to assume that Dr. Stockmann is speaking Ibsen's own ideas. However, Ibsen was certainly eager to express his frustrations with rule by majority in the wake of the liberal media's condemnation of his previous play, Ghosts.It is ironic that the doctor chooses to speak on the tyranny of the majority in front of a crowd of townspeople. The mayor probably also believes in the rule of an intelligent minority, and he maintains it by conspiring with others that he deems part of the worthy minority. Dr. Stockmann's vision of rule by the minority is different from the mayor's.

The doctor sees that although people like the mayor and Hovstad are technically in charge of the town government or the newspaper, they are still subject to the opinion of the masses. The mayor really has no choice but to oppose the doctor's proposal for the baths, because he is the tool of the masses, and Hovstad could not support the doctor if he wanted to because he is subject to the demands of his less freethinking subscribers. When Dr. Stockmann accuses Hovstad of also being a freethinker, Hovstad defends himself on the grounds that he has never claimed to be a freethinker in print. In other words, Hovstad does not deny that he is a freethinker in private, but he merely asserts that he is never a freethinker in the public eye. He is afraid to let the majority know that he is a freethinker. By claiming never to be a freethinker in print, Hovstad proves the doctor's point: Intelligent individuals cannot act on their opinions because of fear of the majority.By staging the speech in a very public setting, Ibsen takes an opportunity to illustrate how the conventions of democracy can be manipulated by those in power. The doctor has convened this public meeting to read his report, but by electing a chairman and conducting the meeting according to vague parliamentary rules, the mayor and the newspapermen are able to shut the doctor up. This shows that the tyranny of the majority is not absolute.

 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
03-05-2014 12:34 PM
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ACT 5

The setting is Dr. Stockmann's study. The windowpanes are broken. The doctor is picking up stones that have been thrown through the windows. His landlord sends a letter giving the Stockmanns notice that they have to move out. The doctor doesn't care because he is taking his family to the New World on Horster's next boat. Mrs. Stockmann asks him if they should move to another town in Norway, but the doctor replies that the population will be the same wherever he goes and he doesn't want his sons to grow up among the "lapdogs" of Norway. He thinks that in the New World things might be different. Petra enters. Even though her supervisor at the school is "freethinking," she has been fired because of anonymous threats her supervisor received.
Captain Horster arrives. He has been given notice by Vik, the owner of the ship he sails. He is not worried; he can easily get a job with an out of town ship owner, and he does not regret helping the Stockmanns. The mayor arrives, and he and the doctor go to talk in private. The mayor has come to give the doctor notice regarding his position as medical officer of the baths and to ask the doctor to leave town for a while. If, after six months or so, the doctor will publicly retract his statements, he might be hired again. The doctor furiously refuses.

Then, the mayor suggests that he has a reason for feeling so secure in his defiance--Morten Kiil's will. The doctor does not understand, and the mayor explains that Kiil has provided for Mrs. Stockmann and the children in his will. The doctor is jubilant, and when the mayor suggests that Kiil might redraw his will in light of the doctor's recent actions, the doctor exclaims that, on the contrary, Kiil is happy to see the doctor causing trouble for the authorities. The mayor then accuses the doctor of merely speaking out in order to curry favor with Kiil and secure his family a part of the inheritance.
The mayor then leaves, announcing that now that he has a weapon to use against the doctor, he can never get his job back. The doctor orders his wife to scrub wherever the mayor has been.Morten Kiil arrives. He brings with him a large number of shares in the baths, which he has just bought. He is upset that his name might be tarnished by rumors started by the doctor that his tanneries are polluting the baths. He wants the doctor to retract his statements; to force him to do so, he has invested Mrs. Stockmann's inheritance in bath stocks. He was able to buy them very cheap that morning, and if the doctor retracts his statements about the baths, their value will skyrocket and Morten Kiil will own most of the baths--and start to make the repairs the doctor proposed. Kiil tells the doctor to come to a decision by that afternoon.As Kiil leaves, Hovstad and Aslaksen enter.
They also have a deal for Stockmann. They know that Kiil has been buying up stocks, and they propose to put thePeople's Herald at the doctor's disposal once he has control of the baths and let him pretend to fix the baths. They remind him that the press has a great deal of power in a free society. All they want is compensation to keep the paper in business. The doctor sarcastically responds that it would be a shame for a friend of the people like the People's Herald to go out of business, but since he is an enemy of the people, he could care less. He lunges for his cane and tries to drive the newspapermen out the window into the gutter. They manage to escape.Mrs. Stockmann, Petra, and Captain Horster want to know what is going on, but before the doctor tells them, he writes "No!" three times on a card and sends it to Morten Kiil. He announces to his family that they are not going to sail for the New World but instead are going to stay and fight. Captain Horster invites them to stay in his house. He will continue his medical practice with the poorest patients, as everyone else will refuse him. He embraces his wife and asks her to look at how beautifully the sun is shining. He resolves to hunt down the wolves that control the city, and his only regret is that he doesn't know any men who can continue the mission after he dies. The doctor's sons arrive, having been sent home because they got into a fight. The doctor decides that he will set up a school for poor children in the great hall where he was branded an enemy of the people. Mrs. Stockmann, however, is still worried that the "wolves" might hunt him down. He replies that he is stronger than the wolves, because he stands alone.

Commentary

By the end of An Enemy of the People, Dr. Stockmann's position has changed several times. Sometimes he seems to be proud that he is "an enemy of the people," but early in Act V he says that the words wound him and are lodged in his heart. What is consistent is a sense of honor and a short temper. His partial embrace of the title enemy of the people is full of sarcasm, as seen when he turns on Hovstad and Aslaksen with his cane. He spoke out against the tyranny of the majority, but he still sees that men like Hovstad have a lot of control, and he is sincerely happy to be Hovstad's enemy. Thus, he eagerly calls himself an enemy of the people to Hovstad's face, implying that corrupt Hovstad is the real enemy. As righteous as Dr. Stockmann may be, we should note that he certainly makes things hard for himself. This is best captured in his decision to remain in town. He decides to stay because he is incredibly angry, and he wants to keep fighting. In Act II, we see the mayor accuse Dr. Stockmann of being forever resentful of authority, implying that the doctor has a history of attacking authority. Thus, Dr. Stockmann's position at the end of the play is as much a result of his morals as of his naturally defiant personality.The end of the play provides an interesting contrast between Mrs. Stockmann and Petra. Mrs. Stockmann accepts her husband's eccentric behavior. Petra, on the other hand, eagerly supports him. When he remarks that he doesn't know who will carry on after he dies, Petra says that problem will be solved in time. Clearly, Petra can follow him--only she isn't a man. Ibsen is highly conscious of gender issues. In a play otherwise about the extent to which a free democracy is not free, Ibsen finds room to speak up for women. He also shows that the doctor's ideas, too, can be old-fashioned.

 

 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
(This post was last modified: 03-05-2014 12:37 PM by Given.)
03-05-2014 12:36 PM
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Given Offline
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RE: ANALYSIS: An Enemy Of The People

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Now let's discuss: What themes do we get from the play?

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
03-05-2014 12:39 PM
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Given Isco Offline
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RE: ANALYSIS: An Enemy Of The People

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 thanks my namesake,you are really good at analysing..av found your post really helpful in writing my assignment in literature...thanks u BRO!!
06-19-2016 12:22 PM
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