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An Enemy of the People

Details

Synopsis

A small Norwegian town has just begun to win fame and wealth through its medicinal spring waters. Dr. Stockmann, resident physician in charge, discovers that the waters are poisoned. On receiving proof of this, he immediately reports to his associates, but is shocked to find that instead of being thanked, he is looked upon as a dangerous crank, motivated by a desire to prove that his fellow townsmen are wrong, and to bring ruin upon them. As the people who run the local paper do their utmost to urge secrecy and compromise, the determined doctor realizes that the honesty and idealism he has counted upon to make the truth prevail, simply does not exist in the face of selfish “practical” interests. The press will not report his findings; the officials refuse to give him a hearing; he loses his position and the townspeople boycott him; and every weapon of blackmail, slander, and eviction are brought against his family. At the end, the townspeople, gathered around the doctor’s home, throw stones through the windows. Stockmann addresses his family: “But remember now, everybody, you are fighting for the truth and that is why you’re alone. And that makes you strong.”

Character Breakdown

Dr. Stockmann (M) protagonist of the play. He is motivated by the truth, and wishes to provide it to his fellow townspeople, regardless of the cost. He could represent science, or any other profession that has found an issue with products or places that the government has deemed safe for its people.

Peter Stockmann (M) Dr. Stockmann's brother and the mayor of the town. Motivated by money and control. He seems to represent the government and the lengths it will go to to keep the people ignorant of wrongdoings. He would be the antagonist, or the opposing force to the protagonist.

Teacher Notes

This is an adaptation by Arthur Miller of the play by Henrik Ibsen