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Henrik Ibsen: An Enemy Of The People


Well-Known Member
Just finished this one up last night and found that I really enjoyed it. It was amazing to read how a man went from being a respected community, to shunned pariah. In short, the plot is about a good doctor whose research leads him to the conclusion that a community's public baths is harming the population. His brother is mayor of the community and the "powers that be" don't take to the report to kindly. It would be an expensive repair job and the place would be closed for two years. The other prominent members of the community urge "moderation" and basically cook his goose through a newspaper that is reform minded, but which also knows, that they too, have a goose egg. He is dismissed from the committee of baths and they are forced out of the home that they are renting. His daughter who is a teacher, is dismissed and vandals break the windows of their lovely home.

The doctor has a lot of support at first when he tries to organize an effort to fix the baths, but then the support melts away under the weight of public opinion. The shocking episode for the doctor is when he realizes the committee on housing turns against him, and that the reform paper will no longer publish his work, while he is in the room with his brother, the mayor. The frustration culminates in a public meeting where he pleads and pleads with the people, who are not interested at all in hearing from him. I was quite amazed that Ibsen didn't have the doctor killed in that scene, though he conveyed the anger and hatred towards the doctor in an intense way.

A large part of the story deals with the ignorant masses and how those who try to inform them of the truth, aren't really appreciated at all. The final line by the good doctor is a powerful one and runs along the lines of-the most powerful man is one who stands most alone.