An Enemy of the People
(Norwegian: En folkefiende
) is an 1882 play in five acts by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen
The main character is Dr. Thomas Stockmann, who has recently become popular in his small, unnamed coastal town in Norway for working with Peter Stockmann - his brother, and the town's mayor - to develop and build public baths. Dr. Stockmann discovers that the baths are being dangerously contaminated by the local tannery, and sends a detailed report and proposed solution to Peter. At first, the town supports him, but Peter turns it against him and he is declared an enemy of the people
Ibsen's message in this play is that The Complainer Is Always Right
, or, in Dr. Stockmann's words, "a minority may be right, [but] a majority is always wrong." The play has many comedic elements, but at its core, it was meant to be an Author Tract
and a Take That, Audience!
in response to an earlier work, Ghosts
, being considered scandalous.
An Enemy of the People provides examples of the following tropes:
- A God Am I: During Dr. Stockmann's Author Tract in Act IV, he slips into this territory. This is what ends up turning his audience into an angry mob.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Billing. His impetuous and selfish personality suggests that he's had this for a while; for a more direct example, see Wild Card.
- The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Inverted, obviously.
- Deadpan Snarker: Katherine, though low on the 'snarky'.
- Fatal Flaw: A lot of the male characters.
- Dr. Stockmann's arrogance and headstrong personality. Though he has the best intentions of the coastal town in his mind, his attitude towards authority and casual disrespect of the populace as a whole is what utterly ruins him, and his family.
- Peter Stockmann's pragmatic attitude in regards to the Baths. Though clearly an intelligent man, he is willing to let the Baths run the risk of being poisoned rather than spend thousands fixing them.
- The venality of Hovstad, Aslaksen, and Billing.
- Heroic BSOD: Dr. Stockmann has a short one in Act V when Morten Kiil, Stockmann's father-in-law and the owner of the tannery, invests his own grandchildren's inheritance in the baths to force him to tell the public he was wrong.
- Heroic Wannabe: Some characters interpret Dr. Stockmann as such.
- Karma Houdini: Every single character other than Dr. Stockmann, his immediate family, and Captain Horster wrongs the Stockmann family somehow and gets away with it. Kiil stands out in particular.
- Spiritual Sequel: To The League Of Youth, courtesy of Aslaksen, the newspaper editor. He is present in both plays, and they take place in the same town. The political themes are also related.
- Title Drop: Several times in Act IV.
- Wild Card: Hovstad, Billing, and Aslaksen are all this to some extent, especially Billing; it's implied that the mayor turns him against Dr. Stockmann by promising him the position in the town's government he was running for behind his coworkers' backs. (Their newspaper, The People's Messenger, is left-wing and polarized against that right-wing government.)