In An Enemy of the People, we see both Dr. Stockmann and the economy vs. the people in society. From the beginning, we see both Dr. Stockmann and the economy play roles as the enemy of the people. The pressure put on Dr. Stockmann to decide what to do about the contamination leads him to become the “enemy of the people” (people being the townspeople). Dr. Stockmann’s decision to shut down the baths occurs towards the end of Act I. he says, “Ah, you remember Petra– I wrote opposing the plans before the work was begun. But at that time no one would listen to me, Well, I am going to let them have it, now! Of course I have prepared a report for the Baths Committee; I have had it ready for a week, and was only waiting for this to come” (14). Here, we see Dr. Stockmann upset about the town’s decision not to listen to his original plans regarding the construction of the baths, and blames them for their disobedience as to why the water is now contaminated. This quote shifts into Dr. Stockmann now becoming the “enemy of the people”.
On the other hand, we see the myor opposing Dr. Stockmann’s suggestion to shut down the baths to repair them. He feels this decision will greaty effect the economy and lose money. He rather put it off a few years. In this section of the text, the enemy of the people can be seen as the economy. Having to shut down the baths will be a catastrophe to the economy which during this time, the mayor feels cannot afford to be worsened. He rather put it off, wait a few years, which will lead to more people getting sick from the contamination.
So overall, we see two opposing views which play as enemies of the people: Dr. Stockmann with his suggestion to shut down the baths and have the townspeople mad at him; and the economy, which the mayor feels should not be affected by Dr. Stockmann’s suggestion and be left alone, leaving the contamination there.
One of the main aims in Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People is to illustrate the great lengths an individual or a group will go to in order to preserve their public image or their finances. Although mentioned briefly in Act III, Petra’s refusal to translate the article is what lies at the center of this play. Devoid of outside forces, the intention of the article which revolved around a “higher power” inspiring the actions and goals of others is what is omnipresent in this play.
Throughout the play, Peter Stockman is intent upon nullifying Thomas Stockman’s facts, opinions, and ideals. Knowing that Thomas is a naive and idealistic individual, Peter caters to these personal characteristics in order to declare Thomas an “enemy of the people”. The mayor is able to hide behind the importance of the revenue that the baths would bring in in order to contradict Thomas’s findings. By eliciting the argument of commerce and the prosperity of the town, Peter is able to sway public opinion by denouncing Thomas’s findings as fantastical fallacies. Peter’s personal vendetta to remain in power and to make the town that he runs economically prosperous blinds him to the findings of Thomas. With the evidence of the contamination of the water not palpable and only present in Thomas’s data, it is easy for Peter to place his interests above what is morally “right”. By turning the numbers against Thomas, which were originally partisan to Thomas, Peter is able to declare Thomas’s argument to be insufficient proof and additionally bereft of common sense. As Thomas laments in Act IV, “The most dangerous enemy of truth and freedom amongst us in the compact majority, yes, the damned compact Liberal majority– that is it!”.
Interestingly enough, it is not the compact majority which originated as the enemy, but rather the greed of Peter Stockman and the economical status of the town which orchestrated the demise of a man and the implied ultimate collapse of a town .