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MonkeyNotes-An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen
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THEMES

Major

Throughout the play, Ibsen portrays the negative side of small town politics and the power of persuasion. At first the citizens are on the side of Dr. Stockmann, praising him for his discovery of the baths' contamination. Then the authorities, who are opposed to the disclosure about the contamination, begin to make their political moves. They convince the editor of the paper of their point of view and persuade him to publish their statements rather than Stockmann's article. They next disrupt a citizens' meeting and sway the people to their side, not giving the doctor a chance to read his paper about the dangers of the baths. The citizens are like puppets, easily manipulated by the right words.

Closely coupled with the predominant theme, is the theme of the nobility of a person who bravely fights for truth. Dr. Stockmann is the representative of the truth seeker who refuses to give in to lies and dishonesty. Even when he is ignored by the people, loses his positions, and is almost evicted, he still stands up for the truth. Through him, Ibsen is clearly stating another theme - that strong persons should have the courage to stand alone without compromising their principles.


Minor

Through the play, Ibsen warns against leaders who are solely rooted in the past, having only myopic vision. The refuse to look to the future and are afraid of new ideas, like Peter Stockmann, the mayor. In fact, the Burgomaster curtly tells the doctor, "The public has no need for new ideas. The public gets on best with the good old recognized ideas it has already." By contrast to his brother, Dr. Stockmann is convinced that it is a citizen's duty, when he has conceived a new idea, to communicate it to the public.

MOOD

Centered on the negative aspects of small town politics and corrupt leaders driven by self-interests, An Enemy of the People has a pessimistic, depressing mood. The only positive note in the play comes at the end when Stockmann vows never to give in to the corrupt leaders and to fight for his cause no matter the price.

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