Individual desires and beliefs are some of the identifiers of those who make up a society. There are people in the society who have desires and beliefs so strong that nothing can sway them from their stand…
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In his play entitled “An enemy of the People,” Henrik Ibsen uses the character of Dr. Stockmann to bring out the extent to which the society can compromise the desires and beliefs of an individual. Reading through the play, one gets to understand how hard it is for people who have compromised their principles to be confronted by someone who has not. The use of the styles of characterization, irony, and symbolism help the author to show the reader ways in which a person can be disliked by the very same society he is doing his best to help. Dr. Stockmann, the main character of the play is a popular practicing medical doctor as well as the medical officer of a small coastal town in Norway. He is the brother of the mayor, an authoritative figure in the town. In the play, Dr. Stockmann is the protagonist who struggles to do the right thing and stand against the social intolerances that he encounters in his day to day activities. As a health officer of the town, Dr. Stockmann discovers a problem with pollution that is causing illnesses to the town’s tourists. To this effect, he comes up with a solution to the pollution problem which he presents to the Mayor. However, he discovers that it would not be an easy task to get the attention of the authorities and the townspeople as it becomes clear to him that they only care about the financial gain of the baths and not the problems they present. He realizes that he is alone in his quest for being right and notes “…..” (Ibsen 1011).
Dr. Stockmann experiences a lot of negativity from the very same people of the town he is trying to help. When he discovers the extent of pollution in the waters, he believes that people will be interested in finding a solution. However, the townspeople, even his friends term him an “enemy of the people” mainly because his suggestions take the prosperity associated with the benefits of the baths back. He even notes himself "I've decided. I am an Enemy of the People"(Ibsen 1028) when he finally accepts that most of the towns people will never support him. This brings out irony in the play. It is ironic because Dr. Stockmann had the best of intentions when he proposed limiting the damages of pollution by closing the baths. In any case, the people are their own enemy because their greed and desire for prosperity will in the end bring harm and destruction to the town. It is clear that people do not realize the shortsightedness of their stand against Dr. Stockmann’s opinion of what is best for the town. Ibsen’s use of imagery as brought out by the character of Dr. Stockmann who points out images of pollution throughout the play. At the beginning, Dr. Stockman literally discovers the polluted baths which in this case, are getting polluted by literal filth from the tanneries. As the play progresses, images of dirty water are used as a symbolic representation of moral and societal corruption. According to Roshwald, there is the physical filth, as well as moral pollution, and one can see the biological poison as a representation of the moral corruption in the society (229). In a community, there are always selfish individuals who have compromised their principles and find it challenging when confronted by someone of integrity. The mayor is dishonest and callous, but his brother is an honest man and that is why as Roshwald notes, Dr. Stockman accuses his brother by saying “We are making our living by retailing filth and corruption!”
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I am admittedly not yet very knowledgeable in theater plays, so I will be analyzing the play and the production from a first-timer’s standpoint. It is a good thing that the play is a widely-known play by playwright Arthur Miller, “The Crucible,” as it allowed me to focus more on analysis rather than in understanding the story.
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