Tag Archives: Capitalism

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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Capitalism as the Antagonist

Capitalism plays a key role in An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen. It is the economic idea of promoting competition and how privately owned businesses should be free from regulation in order to be financially successful. In this respect, capitalism is the source of many of the problems the community faces in the play.

One instance of capitalism seen in the play is the strong desire to earn money. When Peter Stockmann, Aslasken, and Hovstad oppose Dr. Stockmann in his plight to educate the town about the state of the baths, their main motivation is greed. They think it will simply cost too much money to clean up the baths, despite the health problems they have caused. Instead, they oppress the doctor and make sure that the people of the town see him as an “enemy of the people”.

There is one point when Aslaksen realizes that the funds to fix the baths must come “out of the ill-filled pockets of the small tradesmen.” Once this discovery is made, he soon changes his support to the side of Peter Stockmann. Hovstad quickly falls in suit after Aslaksen. This is probably because Hovstead’s paper, the People’s Messenger, is in “shaky condition” fiscally and is financed by Aslaksen.

Finally, the case of Morten Kiil’s tannery is an example of how capitalism is the main dilemma in the play. The tanneries are the source of the pollution which has tainted the baths. If it had not been for the freedom to gain wealth without regulation, the baths would have not been polluted in the first place.


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