Using An Enemy of the People and A Small Place to Reinterpret Capitalism

What has drawn me to write my final paper on A Small Place and An Enemy of the People is that the message of these books can have profound real-world consequences if interpreted correctly and taken seriously. Granted, most of the books we have read make some important statement about the nature of humanity, but these books, I feel, apply the most to our present society and problems in our country. With correct interpretation, these novels can lend some insight on how to re-interpret and analyze global politics. The part most useful to me in An Enemy of the People is when Dr. Thomas Stockman is ostracized by his community because his ideas are at odds with capitalist notions. Many parts of A Small Place will be helpful for my paper, especially when Kincaid speaks of how England, as a byproduct of their capitalism, left behind a disfranchised people. My paper will argue how these two books prove that capitalism, simply by selecting a group to be included, must always exclude some, and how it is in the nature of this system to sometimes take advantage of these disfranchised groups. My paper will also look at how these books may be used to reinterpret capitalism and how we may use these books to provide social and political insight into many of the global problems of today.  Things that I would like to explore further are:

  1. What exactly is the colonial history of Antigua? How does their past involvement in Britain’s capitalist system influence their political and economic success today?
  2. What are some issues today that represent a trade-off between economic success and morality such as the issue of the baths in An Enemy of the People? How do these issues tend to be decided?
  3. How do capitalist systems create disenfranchised groups in the novels and in real life?



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15 responses to “Using An Enemy of the People and A Small Place to Reinterpret Capitalism

  1. aeernst

    While I may not completely agree with your stance personally, I feel like you have the basics for a very strong argument for your paper. I strongly recommend, however, for you to completely address the opposing argument and refute it to give more validity to your paper. Another question I would consider is:
    4) What was the economic situation in Antigua at the time Kincaid wrote A Small Place, and what made that situation exist?

  2. smboehm

    I think you have an interesting topic choice, but from the sounds of it you have many examples and ideas in mind to back up your thesis. I think it would be beneficial for your argument if you spent some time analyzing the similarities between the two scenarios of controversy with the baths and possibly the decaying of Antigua and how these situations affected the people/community.

    5) How did the people react to such governmental controversies such as the contaminated baths and the decaying of Antigua? Are there similarities? What about currently?

  3. siegvald

    Anytime there is a chance for an immoral human being to misuse power or ability, you will find it–in no matter which political system you live. The failures you observe of capitalism is not ascribed to the social institute itself, but rather to the actions or participation of those without scruple. Since your paper has an anti-capitalism agenda, to reinforce your point might I suggest 5. pull from other sources examples (if you can find them) of instances where a non-capitalistic, political state was without human corruption and proved to successfully include everyone, equally on all levels.

  4. siegvald

    Edit: mine is point 6

  5. I think it is important how you are drawing a relation to larger societal issues which affect us today, and will continue to affect future societies. Although #2 could be made into a very large paper I think focusing on it will provide a great thesis to your paper.

    #7 Expansion of the disfranchised people. What exactly becomes of them? How do they function within the larger context of society? Is having this group truly unavoidable or is there a way to incorporate everyone into society equally?

  6. stperry1

    This topic is definitely and interesting and important one for our times. Although all people may not agree with your stance, it is definitely a perspective worth exploring given the state of the country. I think its good to explore more about the economic history of Antigua and this will definitely strengthen your paper. However, I think its important to also to anticipate the arguments against your point.
    #8. What are the arguments the opponents would present and how would you go about refuting them?

  7. Samantha Cooke

    I feel like this could easily be a much longer paper, so you’ll want to keep your focus very narrow. Maybe you might even want to only look at one novel.
    Do you have a background in economics? There is some debate by economists over the benefits and drawbacks of capitalism and other economic systems, and of the effect of equality on prosperity. It might be beneficial to look at some theories of economists.

    9. Dr. Stockman would not have faced such opposition had his brother not riled up the crowd so, or if they were able to think about the long-term effects of having a contaminated spring. How does the government influence the functioning of the economy?

  8. vrosengrant20

    I like that you are analyzing capitalism in a spectrum of forms, ranging from fiction to non-fiction to reality. Your first question would be a good start, more so if you go further and emphasize the specific groups that benefit from the capitalistic system and Britain’s influence. This can be furthered with a question like:
    10.) What group of people gains the most through the capitalist system and how do they do so?

  9. looloo14

    Reading these novels, I would not have considered Capitalism to be the reason for displacing people from a society. Rather, it seemed that it was Britain’s colonizing mindset and Peter’s drive to save the economy of his town. Both parties are not outwardly trying to displace their society.
    11. What is the role of these parties in the disfranchised groups, and how is Capitalism the bigger evil?

  10. autumncassidy

    I like your topic, however, I think it may be difficult to classify the issues of Antigua and the baths under the same umbrella. How is it that these ethical issues are similar? Have the people of Antigua been lured into victimization by their colonizers? Is capitalism the sole factor in either text?

  11. Sophi

    This topic is very objective and would benefit greatly from historical patterns of capitalism and how society is usually affected. However, I am a bit confused by what you mean when you say “included” and “excluded”.
    13.) Do you mean “included” and “excluded” as deemed by society or by the government in one way or another? Also, in terms of those who are “included”, in what way are they included? Surely there must be ways, at the very least, to include the “excluded” in ways that can encourage economic productivity? If this is not possible, why do you think so?

  12. I think question 2 is important. I think the food industry could be a good example of a contemporary similarity, like the fact that Americans buy food that has had hormonal and antibiotic manipulation.

    14. What drives such mistreatment for people who have different political view?

  13. Shooting for capitalism as your topic is challenging but by reviewing your evidence and sources, I think you can form a good thesis and your argument in your paper will be well-developed. “An Enemy of the People” is definitely a good text to use for your argument.
    15.) How does a group/society work against a capitalistic system?

  14. ashleighbarraca

    I definitely agree that both the play and the essay can change a lot of perspectives. Especially in the case of Enemy, I think both have a timeless quality/lesson (despite the people’s mistrust of the “bugs” in the water). However, one question that I think you should address is, 16) What are the dangers of the play and/or the essay being misinterpreted?

  15. I love how you are taking the political issues in the books/essays that we have been reading this semester and applying them to real-life issues. This is obviously something that you are very passionate about, which I think is great. I especially like your second question and am curious to see what you do with it in your paper!

    17) Just like in “An Enemy of the People”, what are some real-life instances that are similar to what happened in the play? What other kinds of things are you going to tie in to real-life situations that also happened in these texts?

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