Tuesday, 6 April 2010

“An Enemy Of The People” By Henrik Ibsen

“An Enemy of the People”, a play written by Henrik Ibsen, is about a small town on the southern coast of Norway and how it perceives and accepts truth. The town is governed by Peter Stockmann and doctored by his younger brother, Thomas. The main conflict flares up between these two siblings and then spreads throughout the town as they both try to do best by the “community.” Dr. Thomas Stockmann is a public-minded doctor in a small town famous for its public baths. He discovers that the water supply for the baths is contaminated and has probably been the cause of some illness among the tourists who are the town's economic lifeblood. In his effort to clean up the water supply, Dr. Stockmann runs into political cowards, sold-out journalists, shortsighted armchair economists, and a benighted Citizenry. His own principled idealism exacerbates the conflict. The well-meaning doctor is publicly labeled an enemy of the people, and he and his family are all but driven out of the town he was trying to save. This is an early dramatization of something we know better a century later: the difficulty of translating medical scientific knowledge into political action. Ibsen's well-intentioned blustery doctor heroically fails. This is partly because the local democratic processes are quite cynical (powerful people prevent him from getting his information to the citizens). Dr. Stockmann also suffers from a professional blindness that keeps him from understanding how anyone could possibly disagree that his scientific truth (he uses the world frequently) requires rebuilding the town's waterworks. He is a classic case of virtue-based ethics sacrificing outcome for principle. This play addresses many social issues. It ties in family, truth, righteousness, community, and politics. It really demonstrates how one issue can have many “truths” to it and how different people, even within ones own family, can see the same thing in total different perspectives; and in doing that act out against one another in an attempt to prove that one’s own perspective is the “right” or only one. In human nature, we are not one to compromise. We see so many things as one way or another, right or wrong; rarely do we seek to find the common ground between the two. In this play, common ground is never found, and in the end leaves a family broken up and a society left to wonder. Dr. Thomas Stockmann refused to give in, and in doing so lost parts of his family, his career, even his property, but never the less remained true to himself. This characteristic is one of great strength in my opinion.


  1. Hi manar! Thanks for this nice post. I really enjoyed it as I haven't studied this play before. Your post gave me a nice introductory idea about this famous play...I'm planning to read it at the soonest convenience. I hope that other colleagues who have good background about it can share ideas with you by making other relevant posts! Best wishes...Mahmoud

  2. Hi again, Manar! The essay that you've copied is available at: http://www.essays.cc/free_essays/c2/xht97.shtml This is a Cliff Notes Free Essay. Please always mention your source whenever you copy anything like this from any online source...Otherwise, Blog readers may think that this is your essay, and thus, you may experience trouble with copyright issues. Anyone can easily know your resource by Googling part of the content (like what I've just done!)...But you should mention your resource to avoid any trouble...Best wishes...Mahmoud