Morality versus Corruption in Politics

An Enemy of the People is a prime example of how corrupt politics can be. You have Dr. Stockmann who sees allowing people to bath in the polluted baths that are poisoning them as undoubtedly wrong while Peter Stockmann, the mayor, is more concerned about the economics behind the baths. It is very difficult for Dr. Stockmann to understand why the economics behind the baths is even a concern when he can clearly see that the baths are poisoning the citizens of his native town. This is because unlike his brother, Dr. Stockmann has not been corrupted by politics. Even today, many people go into politics with the best of intentions; however the party usually ends up running them. This is even evident amongst the people of the town. When Peter takes his story to the paper to be published instead of his brother and explains the economic consequences, Hovstad and Aslaksen no longer want to print Dr. Stockmann’s article since they do not want the baths to be closed for two years or more. This brings the entire town on to Peter’s side.

The reason it is so hard for Dr. Stockmann to understand how the town is siding with his brother is the fact that his morals have not been corrupted by politics. The people wanting to let the polluted water sit and poison their town disgusts Thomas. It seems so ridiculous to him and he takes it very personally since he has invested a lot of himself into those baths. Even though sticking to his morals causes him to lose his position and be declared “an enemy of the people,” Thomas stays strong and ultimately realizes at the end that “the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.”




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6 responses to “Morality versus Corruption in Politics

  1. smboehm

    I agree completely with your post. It’s difficult for Dr. Stockmann to see why he is viewed as the enemy of the people when is trying to prevent the public from being harmed by the corrupt government, yet his plan ultimately backfires when he is the one viewed as the corrupt figure. The government and politics associated with the public are a main theme in this play, which add to the overall pressing ideal of what to believe in society. It may be easy to believe the popular ideal of the government, but is it always necessarily the correct view? Dr. Stockmann is looking out for the best of the public by calling for the Baths to be shutdown, yet he goes about it in a bad way, which cause him to be viewed negatively.

  2. I completely agree with you when you say that An Enemy of the People is a great example of how corrupt politics can be. In my opinion, this is one of the themes that the play focuses on the most!
    I think people (like Dr. Stockmann) who are outside of politics don’t understand as well as someone who is actively involved in politics (like his brother) just how difficult it is to make important decisions such as the ones that were addressed in the play. Even though the mayor knew very well that the baths were contaminated, he also had to think through and decide what is more important- the cleanliness of the baths, or the towns livelihood? I think this could certainly be interpreted as political corruption, having to decide between the two of these. It would be a very difficult decision to make.

  3. aeernst

    I think it is unfair to call Peter corrupt just because he views the issue of the contaminated baths differently than his brother. He sees the economic impact that losing the baths would have on the town, his constituents that he is supposed to be looking out for, and maybe he doesn’t completely understand the extreme nature of the contamination. Today we know how dangerous contaminated water could be, but at the time this wasn’t generally accepted knowledge, and the brothers don’t discuss the specifics of the problem very long before it turns into a personal battle. I do agree however, that politics and government is a central theme to the text, but I just have a hard time believing the answer is as clear cut as you make it seem.

  4. I agree with your suggestion that people can go into politics with the best of intentions, but then end up being corrupt. This is seen in the play as the Mayor wishes to maintain his status and does not want the townspeople doubting his ability to lead, based on a poor choice with the baths. I think the doctor has such a hard time seeing the mayor’s actions as right, not because he is not corrupted by politics but rather because he is a bit extreme, and believes there is only oen right choice. I also have a hard time agrreeing with Thomas’ idea that, “the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.” We are always going to need to rely on other people or our species could not survive. Also I do not think Thomas truly agrees with this because he still has and relies upon his family, especially in this difficult time.

  5. I do agree that corruption is the center of the play. Peter combats his brother, not just for the economic repercussions for his claim, but to also maintain his esteem over his brother and the rest of the town. Peter’s partiality and manipulation does present an examination for corruption for the play, however, I have to disagree with your claim that Dr. Stockman is unadulterated in his politics. Dr. Stockman is incorrigible to the politics of the situation, even if means having his family fall with him. And it is quite evident that Dr. Stockman is not entirely selfless with his efforts; he seems to be trying to develop a heroic image for himself. For instance, when he pompously tries to cease any banquets that he feels should be held in his honor. Dr. Stockman also seems to be trying to reduce his brother in their unspoken rivalry. So, yes corruption is a significant trope for the story, I just have to disagree on Dr. Stockman’s morality.

  6. I agree with your comparison. Morality is played by Dr. Stockmann and Corruption in Politics by Peter SDtockmann. Peter is more concerned about the economy and the price of the baths having to be repaired. However, Dr. Stockmann is doing what is right and that is putting the lives of the townspeople as his first priority. He rather close down the baths to repair them and fix the pollution problem. But the townspeople, not willing to understand this, thinks he is insane by how the mayor (his brother) portrays his suggestion. By wanting to do what is right shows the morality of Dr. Stockmann and by being concerned about the financial situation shows the mayor’s concern of the corruption of politics.

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