An Enemy of the People appears to be about how higher government authorities are able to successfully implant specific ideals into the citizens of society so that the citizens contradict their supposed “moral beliefs” (e.g. liberal-mindedness) in thought and action.
Peter Stockmann, the mayor of the town and older brother to Thomas Stockmann, does a fine job of twisting his discussions with Thomas to initially spark his upset, giving Peter the prime opportunity to pass Thomas’s obsession off as insanity and intent on breaking up the community.
By saying that Thomas wants to “pick a quarrel with your superiors – an old habit of yours” (32) and saying that “the man who can throw out such offensive insinuations about his native town must be an enemy to our community” (34) are such horrible fallacies that Thomas is tempted to physically injure his brother, giving Peter yet another opportunity to tell Thomas to watch his insubordinate actions.
In the play, Peter Stockmann does literally nothing to defend himself from the accusations of his brother, Thomas Stockmann. Why should he when he has the citizens of the town that can fight his battle for him? Peter seems to do most of his fighting by convincing the people of the town that “any fair-minded citizen can easily form him own opinion” (55) to know an enemy of the people when they see one, when really Thomas is looking out for the safety of his fellow citizens.
Peter makes it seem as though Thomas is trying to break the peoples’ unity by claiming that the baths are unhealthy, and in this Thomas is driven mad by how blindly his community is agreeing with Peter’s argument against him.
At the public meeting, when Thomas speaks his piece to the audience, he does so very crudely to get people to listen, but it only allows Peter to use this as a way to convince the audience that Thomas is truly crazy and means to do nothing but cause destruction. Think how ironic it is, though, that the so-called liberal-minded individuals of the community reject Thomas when he expresses the most liberal-minded opinion of all.
Like the dogs that Thomas compared the citizens to, Peter unleashed the community members onto Thomas, watching on as their years of brainwashing and training are put into action to push out a “threat” to society. Dogs listen to their masters, and it was obvious from the start of the play that Peter, along with the rest of the community’s government officials, is the community members’ master.