Sibling Rivalry

To me, this story is about petty sibling rivalry.  This power struggle is between Dr. Stockmann and his brother.  They have sibling rivalry issues, and neither of them has learned to maturely deal with these issues by the time they are adult men. The source of the conflict–the baths issue–is just an instigator that brings their suppressed animosity to a head. Peter is supposed to be an official which means he should have experience being diplomatic.  However, he throws diplomacy out the window and resorts to name calling:  “You have a restless, pugnacious, rebellious disposition.” (p. 27)  And then he says, “. . . there is that disastrous propensity of yours to want to write about every sort of possible and impossible thing” as if that opinion has been ingrained in his brain for a long time now about his brother.  Maybe he is jealous of Dr. Stockmann? 

Dr. Stockmann does not help much either.  He loses all focus when it’s his time to give the people his speech.  He makes it personal and loses it, calling the people stupid animals (aka “pigs” and “parasites”).  This will not help his argument whatsoever.  Why does he do this?  He should know better.  He blames the enemy of truth on the “compact Liberal majority” and says, “. . . at present the stupid people are in an absolutely overwhelming majority.” (p. 59) Does he really think he’s going to get the support from the very people he’s insulting?  Both of these men have people skills they need to work on.  They didn’t even try to reach a compromise.  It was like, “I can’t see your way because you’re a loser in this and this respect . . .so there!”  I feel like so much more could have been accomplished if they had exercised a little diplomacy or maturity on both parts.  There was absolutely no way they were going to simply work together and sort the baths issue out.  The just immediately flew off the handle in a  hot headed manner and refused to listen to each other.  This caused the situation to escalate and quickly turn into something much bigger.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Sibling Rivalry

  1. smboehm

    I agree completely. When both men had their episodes during the meeting, it seemed that the issue wasn’t even about the baths anymore. Thomas, who made it seem as if his main concern was about the people and their health in the baths, treats them as if they are merely below him and of low class. As you said, he even dares to call the people animals while telling them to support his cause. The sibling rivalry between the two men definitely surpasses the argument of the baths and makes it seem that Dr. Stockmann wasn’t even originally concerned with the health of the people, but rather the sake of proving his brother to be an idiot for not finding the health issues first.

  2. Your analysis of the play as a sibling rivalry is a very interesting interpretation of the text. I do realize that the Stockmanns are in fact brothers, but the issue at hand effects the entire community and is much larger than a petty sibling rivalry. I do not think that the mayor is jealous of his brother, but I do think his past history with him influences him to be bias. I think the doctor’s loss of composure is actually very realistic to something that could occur in real life. Although on various occasions we can envision how events will unfold, they rarely go as we had planed. Just as is seen in this example when the doctor’s emotions get the better of him. I think both men just had goals they believed to be important and wished to maintain them, not as a sibling rivalry.

  3. Samantha Cooke

    Both brothers are indeed rather stubborn and tactless, with a terrible tendency to use highly incendiary language. This creates problems for them both, and tossing the two together in a situation in which they are on opposing sides is a recipe for disaster. Being headstrong, neither will admit the other’s point of view, staying steadfast to their own. Were they not, the issue of the contaminated water would not have become so contested. This is most apparent in Dr. Stockman’s address to the people, which moves away from an informative speech on the contaminated water to a public verbal assault on his brother. This is recognized by the audience members, some of whom seem surprised to observe their catty behavior.

  4. I agree with you, there is definitely a strong sense of sibling rivalry throughout the play. Even at the beginning of the play, it is easy to see that they have a strained relationship. Peter blatantly criticizes the way Thomas spends his money and thinks even his meals are too extravagant, when in actuality most meals would be more fancy than Peter’s bread and butter. The fact that Thomas also tests the water in the baths behind Peter’s back suggests that he probably wanted to do this to prove that Peter made an error in the baths’ design and that Thomas had been right from the start. So a lot of the issues start out as sibling rivalry and mistakes that are made later in the play by both characters are a part of this sibling rivalry, and the attacks do indeed become personal.

  5. I also agree that this novel is nothing more than a case of sibling rivalry. You posed the question, “Is Peter jealous of his brother, Dr. Stockmann?” I think he is in many ways. When the fact that the baths were originally Dr. Stockmann’s idea is brought to Peter, he is upset by it. I, personally, feel like the mayor is jealous of his brother for his intelligence and wealth. The two bicker back and forth throughout the story as if they are in some type of competition w/ one another, bringing more than just the baths into the argument. This reminded me of my two male cousins who are 2 years apart and are always competing with one another, instead of helping each other. As in relation to Dr. Stockmann and Peter, the two do not want to work together to solve the problem, instead they have two opposing plans which bring conflict. The two could have easily sat down and advised a plan which were in both of their favors, but the fact that there was sibling rivalry between them and one wanted to conquer the other, there could be no resolution between the two.

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