An Enemy of the People (orginal Norwegian title: En folkefiende) is a 1882 play written by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. Amongst other things, it is concerned with the irrational tendencies of the masses, and the hypocritical and corrupt nature of the political system that they support. The play was adapted by Arthur Miller in the 1950s. It was also made into a movie by the same name in 1978, starring Steve McQueen.
Dr. Stockmann is the popular citizen of a small coastal town in Norway. The town has recently invested a large amount of public and private money towards the development of baths, a project led by Dr. Stockmann and his brother, the Mayor. The town is expecting a surge in tourism and prosperity from the new baths, said to be of great medicinal value and as such, the baths are the pride of the town. However, as the baths are starting to succeed, Dr. Stockmann discovers that waste products from the town's tannery are contaminating the baths. He expects this important discovery to be his greatest achievement, and promptly sends a detailed report to the Mayor, with a proposed solution included.
But to his surprise, Stockmann finds it difficult to get through to the authorities. They seem unable to appreciate the seriousness of the issue and unwilling to address the problem. As the conflict ensues, the Mayor warns his brother that he should "acquiesce in subordinating himself to the community". Stockmann refuses to accept this, and rents a hall in order to hold a town meeting and convince the people to close the baths.
The townspeople - eagerly awaiting the prosperity that the baths are believed will bring - refuse to accept Stockmann's claims, as his friends and allies, who had explicitly given support for his campaign, turn against him en masse. He is taunted and denounced as a lunatic, an "Enemy of the People." In a scathing rebuke of both the Victorian notion of community and the principles of democracy, Dr. Stockmann proclaims that in matters of right and wrong, the individual is superior to the multitude, who are easily led by self-advancing demagogues. Stockmann sums up Ibsen's denunciation of the masses, with the memorable quote "...the strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone."
List of characters