An Enemy of the People, Government, Majority
Although an Enemy of the People touches on many issues, the most salient to me was how government functions within a society. One of the major problems presented is the difference in goals between the individual and the public as a whole. This issue was clearly addressed in regard to the baths. From an individual’s point of view we would want to ensure that the baths were safe and clean for our health. But, for the sake of the public in regard to the economy the government wants to make sure the baths are able to make money and support the town’s economy. The questioning of the safety of the baths makes the issue a health as well as a financial concern. It proposes morality and science or economics and politics.
One of the ways the government is changed in a corrupt way is when leaders are afraid to do what is right or moral because they are concerned with their own popularity among the people. This occurs when the mayor does not want the public to know that there may be something wrong with the water pipes and that it was caused by his mistake. This also occurs when Hovstad refuses to print the doctor’s article in the paper, believing he may lose popularity and business from its readers. Leaders themselves can also be corrupt as they are able to manipulate the majority.
Another function of the government that results concerns the majority vs. the ruling elite. At one point the doctor is glad to have the solid majority behind him, but Mrs. Stockmann points out that is a horrible thing to have. Later in the play Stockmann himself changes his opinion and says that the authorities are not the worst enemies, rather the majority because they are ignorant. I found it ironic that originally the doctor just wanted to help the majority, by ensuring safe baths and after insulting their ignorance by inferring that he would, “like best would be to see them exterminated like any other vermin”(Ibsen 57), he become an enemy of the people. An important issues that remains relevant today, is how hard it is to have a clear opinion about government.