An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen is a theatrical drama which portrays important characteristics such as honesty, integrity, and courage. All of which could be seen as hazardous to European politics at the time. Dr. Thomas Stockmann is a common man who attempts to create a revolution in his town.
With the help of his naturally defiant personality the doctor makes a discovery that he hopes will better the town. This discovery was meant to lead a change in the physical structure of the water source. Instead it created a waterfall of political disaster. Despite numerous stabs in the back and lack of free-thinking, Dr. Stockmann stood tall and never backed down from what he believed in.
The play is set in a small town in Norway that has just begun to develop the wings it needed to expand and become prosperous. This is in the most part due to The Baths; a business Dr. Stockmann and his brother Peter began, to cure the sick through spa treatments and rest. At the beginning, it seems as though The Baths had just begun to take off. The play is set in the Stockmann’s kitchen where Mr. Billings, a close friend and member of the People’s Herald, is having dinner.
He is then joined by Hovstad, also a member of the People’s Herald, and in the absence of Dr. Stockmann they discuss the future of The Baths. The Mayor, who is also Thomas’ brother, stops in unexpectedly to have a word regarding The Baths. Since Dr.
Stockmann has not yet arrived home from his walk with his sons; Billings, Hovstad, and the mayor begin to discuss future events. Hovstad explains to the mayor that he can see nothing but good in the future for the town, and that Dr. Stockmann had been holding an article he had written that was sure to spark interest in his recent discovery. At this point it is obvious that the relationship between Dr. Stockmann and his brother Peter is not the strongest.
They seem to struggle on seeing eye-to-eye on several issues. Before Dr. Stockmann arrives home, his wife Katherine is comforting Peter, since he has taken great offense to Hovstad’s comment about The Baths being Thomas’ discovery. Dr. Stockmann arrives and is pleasantly surprised to see another dinner guest, Captain Horster, on his way in.
His friends and brother have been awaiting him. A string of many arguments between the Stockmann brothers begins when Peter disagrees with the way Dr. Stockmann lives his life, and more importantly the steps being taken to promote The Baths, such as the secret article. After the Mayor exits, the dinner party at the Stockmann’s continues. Thomas becomes very anxious about the mail and an awaited letter.
His daughter Petra arrives with the letter, and explains that the postman handed it to her on her way out that morning. Dr. Stockmann is overjoyed to see its arrival, and excites his guests with the potential for big news. He takes the letter into his study to read privately. Meanwhile Petra, who is a teacher, gives her opinion regarding the problem with the school system, and that if she had the money she would start her own school where children would learn what was really important.
Captain Horster shows his support in the new school, and offers Petra his father’s house to accommodate. Petra’s response shows a bit of foreshadowing as she politely thanks the Captain, but explains that nothing will ever come of it. Dr. Stockmann comes out of his room waving the letter, and proclaiming that the news will definitely have tongues wagging around town. All of the guests anxiously sit up to hear this long awaited news.
Dr. Stockmann explains that his recent observation of patients getting sick with typhoid and gastric fevers made him curious, so he took samples of the water and sent them out to be tested. He held the results in his hand; results that proved the water to be contaminated and poisoned. The doctor had also discovered that the source of contamination came from Molledal, an industry owned and operated by his father-in-law.