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In An Enemy of the People, Ibsen vividly portrays the negative aspects of small-town politics where the majority of citizens are easily swayed by the controlling bureaucrats, who are often corrupt and self-serving. In contrast, he unifies the play by praising the responsibility and courage of Dr. Stockmann.
In the play Ibsen clearly criticizes the "compact majority," who often act foolishly in refusing to accept the truth and in blindly following their elected leaders. In contrast to the ordinary citizen, the doctor has the courage to stand up to the authorities. As a result, Ibsen uses Dr. Stockmann to voice many of his own opinions in the play. He portrays the doctor as a noble reformer who dares to fight rather than compromise his principles. In fact, Ibsen calls Stockmann the strongest man in the world for he stands alone to fight his battle with the authorities, never budging in his beliefs, his correctness of purpose, or his self-assurance.
Although An Enemy of the People is replete with sarcastic remarks about the compact majority, Ibsen is not attacking the concept of democracy. Instead, he levels his criticism upon the unscrupulous leaders and their naïve followers. Because they have vested interests and secret agendas, the bureaucrats mislead and misguide the public in order to get what they want and to stay in power. Ibsen shows how such leaders make a mockery of democracy. Stockmann appropriately refers to them as a social pestilence.
In the play and in life, Ibsen values the truth above everything. Dr. Stockmann is determined that the truth about the baths prevail in order to preserve the health and honor of the community. He states that suppression of truth is a "fraud, a lie, an absolute crime against the public, against society as a whole!" This is the key theme of Ibsen's An Enemy of the People.