An Enemy Of The People


It is clear from history that people do not always know what is best for them. There are even quite a few cases where people act in ways that are definitely not in the best interests of themselves, their loved ones or anyone else who is nearby. One such case is described in the play ‘An Enemy of the People’. This essay seeks to parse out some of the most important elements of that work of fiction and how it relates to instances in reality.

  • Author
  • This play was written n 1882 by Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen and as a result was originally published in his native language. Ibsen’s other works have themes that tended to be considered controversial, scandalous or even obscene at the time although they would hardly raise an eyebrow in today's times. He was known for his social commentaries. The objective observer would remark that these were often scathing but still fair. He dies at the age of 78, not long after the last century was rung in but long before some of the attitudes he though should change finally were adjusted by the majority.

  • Summary of the Plot
  • The play tells the story of a small town that is on the verge of ruin. They construct a complex for bathing purposes to attract people and stimulate economic advancement through tourism. Unfortunately, one of its residents, a doctor, realizes that the facility’s waters are contaminated. When he first makes this known to the relevant authorities, he is told that nothing can be done affordably so he should pretend not to know. When he continues to raise a commotion, the other townspeople victimize him and his family. In the end, he stays as ‘an enemy of the people’ when he probably should have left and started over elsewhere.

  • Parallels in Real life
  • In some ways the physician can be compared to Erin Brokovich, the single mother who worked hard to find the source of contamination in her own town. She faced similar opposition but was ultimately victorious and managed to get a large settlement for the victims of the pollution problem from the massive company that knowingly exposed them to that danger.

Whistle blowers are not always treated well for exposing serious crimes or injustices. Edward Snowden can never go home. This play was far ahead of its time.