Sunday, August 8, 2010

An Enemy of the People

Dr. Thomas Stockmann is a popular citizen of a small coastal town. The town has recently invested a large amount of public and private money towards the development of medicinal baths, a project led by Dr. Stockmann and his brother, Peter Stockmann the Mayor. The town is expecting a surge in tourism and prosperity from the new baths, said to be of great health value, and as such, the baths are a source of great local pride.

Just as the baths are proving successful, Dr. Stockmann discovers that waste products from the town's tannery are contaminating the waters, causing serious illness amongst the tourists. He expects this important discovery to bring him honor and approval and promptly sends a detailed report to the Mayor, which includes a proposed solution, but one that would come at a considerable cost to the town.

To his surprise, Stockmann finds the authorities unwilling to accept the seriousness of the issue and to publicly acknowledge and address the problem, claming it could mean financial ruin for the town. As the conflict develops, Dr. Stockman’s own brother tells him he should "acquiesce in subordinating himself to the community." Dr. Stockmann refuses to accept this, and holds a town meeting in order to persuade people that the baths must be closed.

The townspeople - eagerly anticipating the prosperity that the baths will bring - refuse to accept Stockmann's claims, and 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, and an “enemy of the people."

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