Higher Authority Rules All

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.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Higher Authority Rules All

  1. aeernst

    In this post, I feel like you are saying that Thomas was completely right and Peter was completely wrong, and there I have to disagree with you. While many of your accusations again Peter are true, I feel like he was looking at the issue of the contaminated water in a different light that Thomas completely ignored. Peter was concerned about the economic impact on the community and feared that the town would be left in ruins without the baths, which was not an unreasonable assumption. There were also many “low blows” from both sides in the argument to gain the people’s favor as well, not just from Peter, and I feel like they are both at fault there.

  2. vrosengrant20

    It is true that the community blindly follows the word of Peter Stockmann over that of Dr. Stockmann due to that fact that Peter has a greater sense of authority because he is the mayor. Another perk of being Mayor is that he can censor Dr. Stockmann, such as in act four where he pushed for the meeting to not allow Dr. Stockmann to read his article even if that was the reason that the people had gathered. While the Mayor can use his influence to affect the opinions of the populace indirectly, he is not above outright slander in order to get his way in preserving his position of power above his brother.

  3. autumncassidy

    I thought that you brought up an interesting point in your fourth paragraph by mentioning that Peter was essentially creating an army for himself to do his dirty work for him. I know that we mentioned in class the power of public opinion, but I thought the idea of Peter creating an army truly exemplified this power that Peter had over the town. By inflicting group-think upon the town, Peter succeeded in rallying the population against Thomas, thus inspiring Thomas to fight a losing battle and essentially “did himself a deeper grave”.

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