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MonkeyNotes-An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen
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Act II

Summary

Act II opens with Dr. Stockmann in his sitting room. Mrs. Stockmann hands over a sealed letter from the Burgomaster, which contains the manuscript sent by Dr. Stockmann and a message about the Burgomaster's visit at noon. Mrs. Stockmann urges her husband to be at home at that time. Morten Kiil enters. He has heard about the doctor's report from Petra and is happy that Dr. Stockmann is not playing "monkey-tricks with his own brother." Morten Kiil is displeased because he was driven off the Town Council by the present members, who were led by the Burgomaster. He wants the doctor to "make the Burgomaster and his gang eat humble pie."

Hovstad enters, and Morten Kiil leaves. Hovstad tries to impress upon Dr. Stockmann that the business of the baths is not an isolated affair, but tied to many other things. He points out that the whole town is rotting as a result of a few wealthy and corrupt bureaucrats; he hopes to "explode the tradition of (their) officious infallibility." Even if he is labeled an agitator, Hovstad would risk denunciation to emancipate the masses.

Aslaksen next calls on Dr. Stockmann to extend his support. He is the Chairman of the Homeowners' Association and represents the middle-class people who constitute the "compact majority" in the town. He wants to honor Dr. Stockmann for his action in the matter of the baths, but he wants the demonstration to be one that will not offend the authorities and parties in power. He harps on the virtues of temperance and moderation, for he is a "yes" man that tries to please everyone. Dr. Stockmann thanks him for his support.


Hovstad, on the other hand, wants to excite the half-hearted cowards like Aslaksen. Though their intentions are good, they lack strong self-assurance. He wants to "put a little grip into their good intentions" by making every voter realize the "inexcusable blunder of the waterworks." Dr. Stockmann, however, requests that Hovstad not publish his article until he discusses the matter with his brother, the Burgomaster. If he refuses to take any step in rectifying the error, the doctor will then allow Hovstad to print the article, which he hands over to Hovstad.

Dr. Stockmann joins his wife and daughter in the drawing room. He tells them about the support extended by Hovstad and Aslaksen. He is elated at "such brotherly unison with one's fellow residents." The Burgomaster enters, and Mrs. Stockmann and Petra thoughtfully leave the room. The two brothers have a confrontation on the baths. The Burgomaster wants to hush up the matter of the contamination. He knows that the cost of relaying the water pipes would be exorbitant and the Town Council cannot afford to spend several hundred thousand crowns on the repairs. In addition, the baths would have to be closed for nearly two years for the repairs; their closing would cause considerable economic hardship to the people of the town.

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