An Enemy Of The People by Henrik Ibsen

An Enemy Of The People by Henrik Ibsen

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Dr. Thomas Stockmann: Hero or Enemy ?

Dr. Thomas Stockmann is the Medical Officer of the Baths in the play ''enemy of the people'' by Henrik Iben; and the brother of the Burgomaster (mayor) of the town. Jovial by nature, the doctor enjoys the company of "bright, cheerful, freedom loving young fellows" who share his idealism and ability to think freely.
Throughout the play, Stockman shows himself to be a conscientious person and a caring father.
He surely is the strongest character in this play with the most powerful motivation, which is truth and that only. Dr. Stockmann is determined to reveal to the public the health problems they are encountering with the contaminated baths, and is sure that they will thank him for that and appoint him as a hero for the caring of their welfare.
The doctor makes excessive attempts to make the fact known and he will not budge on his stance to protect the general public, even though it is against the will of the mayor, his brother, and the authorities.
Will the truth triumph over falsehood and the willingness of an individual to stand up against corrupt bureaucrats?
Dr. Stockmann bravely decides to fight but he doesn't realize the weight of the task he is undertaking,
His discovery that could lead him to be the hero of the town could as well make him the ‘'enemy of the people," if he doesn't handle the matter with extra care.

Dr. Stockmann originally came up with the plans for the baths. When the Burgomaster and the Town Council became involved, the doctor's plans were not followed and short cuts were taken. In fact, the Burgomaster insisted that the baths and the pipes be placed exactly in their present location.
The doctor grew suspicious about problems with the baths when he saw several sick patients. Through his own initiative, he tests the water and discovers that the baths, which supply much of the town's livelihood, are contaminated and became a "pestiferous hole,'' because of the faulty lying of the water pipes approaches the Burgomaster, who is also the Chairman of the Baths Committee. He reports the contamination and insists that the pipes be re-laid properly. He threatens to have his article about the baths printed in the local newspaper if corrective again is not immediately begun.
The Burgomaster insists that re-laying the pipes is out of the question because of the expense

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and the necessity of closing the baths for a period of approximately two years.

As a result, Stockmann goes to the press and convinces Hovstad and Aslaksen to publish his charges against the baths. These are impressed by the Doctor's determination and care for the town and call him ‘' a friend of the people'', ‘'a true friend of the town"

At that stage, Dr Stockmann already sees himself acclaimed as the ‘Hero of the Town'. Certain of his good deed, he is determined to take revenge on the Burgomaster and his followers; he wants to "smite them to the ground."

Aslaksen urges the doctor to proceed with moderation:
‘'And if we proceed with moderation, I cannot imagine that there will be any risk''
That, however, is not Dr. Stockmann's style. When he believes in a cause, he charges forward with full force, especially when the public's health is at risk.
‘' Who the devil cares if there is any risk or not! What I am doing, I am doing in the name of truth and for the sake of my conscience''

He naively believes that all of the citizens will support him against the Burgomaster and Town Council, not realizing that in society matters, authorities always have the upper hand on their citizens as his brother is proving to be a clever and cunning politician, knowing how to swing public opinion by referencing their pocketbooks.

Dr. Stockmann's enthusiasm is not even diminished when Hovstad and Aslaksen withdraw their support and refuse to publish his article; or when the Burgomaster will not allow him to hold a citizens' meeting in any town hall. He merely states he will deliver his message to the citizens on every town corner.
It is not surprising that Dr. Stockmann, the idealist, is shocked when all of his supporters turn against him, swayed by the false statements of the Burgomaster who claims that re-laying the pipes will destroy the town economically. He shows that although he is a very smart scientist, he, unfortunately, has no awareness or understanding of the fickleness of the public. And even though he has just seen how quickly Billing, Hovstad, and Aslaksen desert his cause, he vows to fight his battle alone and to the end.
With fierce independence, the doctor speaks out against the authorities, who he claims are poisoning the sources of spiritual life: "All our sources of spiritual life are poisoned and our whole society rests upon a pestilential basis of falsehood."
He also accuses the citizen majority of being fools for following them. In return, the corrupt bureaucrats inflame the citizens against the doctor and have him declared:
"an enemy of the people."

This play shows us that there is only a very fine line between ‘Hero' and ‘Enemy':
At one time, the whole town considered Dr. Stockmann a hero. Now, because of the corrupt and manipulative bureaucrats who want to protect their own reputations, no one will have anything to do with the doctor. In fight for the truth, it might not always be easy, and general opinion is hard to change and influence if the social skills are missing as they do with Dr Stockmann.
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