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MonkeyNotes-An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen
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PLOT (Structure)

The plot of An Enemy of the People is unified by time, place, and character. The entire play takes place in a small Norwegian town, largely in the home of the protagonist, Dr. Stockmann. All of the action takes place over the period of a few days, from the time the doctor confirms his suspicions about the contamination of the baths, through the time he is declared an enemy of the people, to the time he finally decides to stay in the town and fight the battle of the baths to its conclusion. The play centers around Dr. Stockmann, the central character and protagonist of the plot; except for the citizens, who are viewed as a whole (almost like a single character), there are few other characters introduced: the Burgomaster, Aslaksen, Hovstad, Billing, the Captain, Mrs. Stockmann, and Petra.


The plot of the play also develops along traditional lines. Act I serves largely as an introduction, where Ibsen presents the protagonist, Dr. Stockmann, and his problem, the battle with his brother over the baths. The rising action begins when the doctor insists that the Burgomaster re-lay the pipes to the baths in order to prevent the contamination; the Burgomaster flatly refuses, saying it is too costly to make the repairs and close the baths for two years. He also insists that the doctor remain silent about the problem, for the Burgomaster wants to protect his own reputation and interests. The rising action continues as the battle between the brothers heats up. At every step, Dr. Stockmann meets with frustration, for his brother prevents his article from being published, blocks him from holding a town meeting in any hall, and turns the citizens against him. The climax of the plot occurs when the Burgomaster succeeds in having the doctor officially declared an enemy of the people. The falling action shows the doctor contemplating fleeing the town, going to the new world to seek a more liberal and honest atmosphere. In the end, however, he decides to stay and fight the battle of the baths to its conclusion. The conclusion comes when Dr. Stockmann decides to open a school so that he can teach future generations to think freely for themselves and fight corruption in politics. It is the only element of hope in a tragic play, where Dr. Stockmann, the protagonist, is defeated by the Burgomaster, his antagonist.

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