Stefan Apostolov 03/01/2010 “An Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen Lie, hypocrisy and unfairness versus truth, loyalty and justice are roused because of greed for political power and self-contentment “An Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen is a play that addresses many social issues and reveals injustice and contradictions in people’s relations. It makes us speculate on the great existence of hypocrisy, prejudice and greed political power in the real life. It makes us think whether we have to change our behavior in order to be better in the society and contribute to its safety and progress.
Most of the characters in “An Enemy of the People” are influenced by their desire for political power. In the beginning of the play, Hovstad and Billing seem to definitely support Dr. Stockmann in his discovery. However, it turned out that Hovstad and Billing do not care about the safety of the society at all. Hovstad wants to manipulate the pollution discovery for other purposes. He wants to use the information about the pollution of the bath as a tool to attack the city leadership. In order words, he seems to be interested in how useful the report is to him only, which has nothing to do with the Dr. s concern about the safety of the town. In addition, Hovstad’s support of Dr. Stockmann is partially influenced by his attraction to the Dr. ’s daughter, Petra. He even betrays his friend, Billing, in order to get closer to her. All these reveal Hovstad’s hypocrisy roused by his desire for political power and self-contentment. Being the chairman of the homeowners association and member of other associations, Aslaksen is concerned about the protection of the small business class property and wealth. He always tries to please the town leadership and to be on its side.
That’s why, in the beginning, he also support the discovery of Dr. Stockman. What is the most interesting moment in the play for me is how fast the above characters change completely their positions. From firm supporters of Dr. Stockmann discovery, they turn to be his enemies. They are influenced by the mayor disclosure that if the discovery is reported the baths should be shut down for two years, which will significantly aggravate the town’s economy. Hovstad completely changes his position because the subscribers control the paper and the report will outrage them.
Aslaksen also opposed the Dr. because he does not want to upset the town leaders. Therefore, it turns out that influenced by political and economic prerequisites more than being concerned about the safety of the town, these people betray a friend. Thomas’ brother, the mayor, has to ignore the truth because of two things- money and political power. Fixing the problem with the baths costs a lot of money and the mayor is extremely concerned about money and his reputation. He does not want to upset the majority, which may result in losing his position as a mayor in the society.
He even disregards the safety of the town people only because he concerned about his well-being and his current satisfying job. All these characters are driven by the desire for political power and from then on economic contentment. All of them are inclined to betray the society, disregard its safety and be concerned only for their well-being. Having monopoly on the press (in the face of Hovstad and Aslaksen) and having political power in the town (in the face of the mayor), these characters not only hide the truth but they lie the society assuring it that the baths are safe.
This discloses their hypocrisy and nonchalance. Only one man in the town forsakes it altogether in the name of his principles and in the name of the well-being of the society. This man is Dr. Thomas Stockmann. Dr. Stockmann is the only character in the play whose motivation throughout the play was the truth and only the truth. He is the only one completely concerned about the safety of the town throughout the play. All he wants to do is tell the public about the reality of the baths, which puts the health of the public at risk.
Thomas is ready to fight anyone against him and defend himself. He is completely aware of the consequences of his actions (losing parts of his family, his career and even his property) but nevertheless he remains true to himself. In the beginning of the play, a few people including Hovstad and Aslaksen claim to support his position firmly. However, at the end he opposes the majority in the town by himself only making him an enemy of the people. This reveals his extremely high devotion to his mission to save the town.
It is even ridiculous that although his biggest enemy in accomplishing his objective is the majority of the people, he is still anxious about its safety and remains loyal to his undertaking to the end. In my opinion, the only argumentative reason that Hovstad, Aslaksen and the mayor give why the discovery should not be reported is that this will significantly aggravate the town’s economy by shutting the baths down. However, imagining myself as an owner of a small business and thinking rationally, comparing and contrasting the consequences between leaving the baths to work or shutting them down, I reached a conclusion.
It is better having a harder life with less income, more struggle for surviving than having no life at all after having died using the polluted waters in the baths. While writing this paper, I was again struck by the news for the devastating earthquake in Chile. I said again because such disasters started to happen very often in the last couple of years. Millions are the victims from all the earthquakes and tsunamis in the last years. Millions are the victims from wars all over the world such as the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.
Millions are the people who are starving every day and whose lives’ objective is to survive. Less and less people remain concerned about what is happening with this world. Less and less people remain loyal human beings ready to help the fellows when they are in need. Less and less people from developed countries like USA or people from countries with the absence of wars, natural disasters or hunger like my country Bulgaria, appreciate the fact where they were born and the opportunities for professional development and prosperity they are presented. Less and less people appreciate having a NORMAL life.
There are many people all over the world whose major objective in their lives is to be financially secured even if it will be on the account of the society. They do not care about the misfortune and global catastrophes that constantly happen all over the world. They are only concerned about their own happiness. Hovstad, Aslaksen and the mayor are examples for such people in our real life. They disregard the public safety and need to repair the baths being motivated by greed for money and political power only. However, the world is still happy to have volunteers who are willing to help the victims after natural disasters or wars, for instance.
Or rich people who donate millions of dollars in order to help the world cope with problems like the hunger in the poor countries. I would like to show admirations to these people. They all have done their part for saving the world and making it a better place for living. Thomas Stockmann is an example of such a volunteer in the real life who is completely loyal to his principles and opposes the whole majority of people by himself in order to save their lives. He scarifies his job, his property and even the happiness of the whole family in completing his mission.