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The Play “An Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen

The play An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen is considered especially emotionally loaded, as it expresses the author’s social fears and a cry from the heart. In addition, this performance has a personal relationship with the author, as it is his response to the negative public opinion about his previous work. In several acts affecting several days of the town’s life and individual families, Henrik Ibsen tells about a critical confrontation between the views of profit. The author touched upon the vital problem of loneliness and misunderstood (rejected) genius. An Enemy of the People describes the struggle of an idealist against social pragmatism, where families and children suffer. This work is replete with emotional statements and loud statements of the characters and well portrays the public’s fears.

Performing the actors in An Enemy of the People requires a lot of emotional work, exhausting. The figure of the protagonist, Dr. Stockmann, manifests himself in very different roles: a scientist, a public figure, a family man, a spouse, and, as a result, a ‘madman’ who fights for ideals. The last role finds him towards the end of the play when he turns into an almost revolutionary from a calm person leading a measured life. Dr. Stockmann has scientific merit, he has nothing to prove, and it would seem that his life is settled (Ibsen). However, he finds a fighter for justice in society against people who only want to profit from human health.

Henrik Ibsen demonstrates in the third act (the scene connected with the newspaper and the article’s publication) how much Dr. Stockmann’s pride is hurt. Viewers begin to wonder what exactly this character is fighting. If, at first, he appears as a fighter against injustice, bureaucracy, and corruption, then it is in the third and fourth acts that one can see how the pride of a person is hurt. Resentment turns into an almost open attack on society, manifests the protagonist in the fifth act.

Despite the protagonist’s views, he is hard to sympathize with as he harms his family. Towards the end of the play, Henrik Ibsen describes what harm was done to his loved ones: his daughter’s dismissal, the broken windows, and rejected children from school. The family has been supporting the protagonist for a long time and is trying to smooth things over (Ibsen). Viewers are compared to an annoying teenager, impressed by a book or movie, who wants to tell everyone around him about his new views.

Henrik Ibsen’s script is well-executed and logical, allowing the viewer to clearly understand the outline of the plot and how the actions succeed each other. The intensity of public passion grows with each act when the audience can see the disappointed main characters at the end of the play. They survived the attacks of the people that the protagonist wanted to take care. Viewers can say that they acted concerning him to the highest degree unfairly, affecting his entire family.

Henrik Ibsen wanted to portray a revolutionary and a misunderstood champion of the people’s freedom. However, he went the wrong way when he tied the pathos of a defender and a misunderstood genius to the protagonist. It is seen in the places where Dr. Stockmann speaks to his family, including his wife, who supports him, about total loneliness and the severity of his fate. Dr. Stockmann goes against his wife’s father (blaming him and his tannery for polluting the water), which traumatizes her, but she finds the strength to continue by his side. The pathos of Dr. Stockmann’s accusations makes him a frivolous character, as he refuses any compromise, demonstrating naivety and stubbornness.

The technical aspect of the play is complicated, as it is not clear what feelings Henrik Ibsen would like to evoke in his readers or viewers of the performance. The author contrasts people with diametrical views, such as the main character and his elder brother, who often helped him (Ibsen). Usually, no people would have such radical ideas, and they try to enter into the position of their colleagues, friends, or even strangers. The heroes (the idealist Thomas and the pragmatist Peter) look somewhat comical in this opposition, but Henrik Ibsen is not embarrassed by this. Perhaps the situation is aggravated if we consider that Henrik Ibsen relates the play to himself as the creator.

The play could be a phenomenal breakthrough, containing the existential experiences of the characters and social problems mixed with deep philosophizing. However, the contrasts of the types and excessive pathos made them look far from reality. It is challenging for readers and viewers to relate them to their personal stories and life situations. The protagonist acts as a mature person who, with tenacity and naivety, cannot find a compromise with his family. The portrait of the dreamer turns out to be ridiculous because he does not try to find support from people but revels in his loneliness, rightness, and genius. Henrik Ibsen creates a great script with logic that does not confuse the audience, but the characters do not inspire respect or empathy. Technically, the play raises a lot of contradictions and questions since its central message and how seriously the characters require are not entirely clear.

Work Cited

Ibsen, Henrick. An Enemy of the People. Null, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2019.

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OctoStudy. (2023, April 5). The Play “An Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen. https://octostudy.com/the-play-an-enemy-of-the-people-by-henrik-ibsen/

Work Cited

"The Play “An Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen." OctoStudy, 5 Apr. 2023, octostudy.com/the-play-an-enemy-of-the-people-by-henrik-ibsen/.

1. OctoStudy. "The Play “An Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen." April 5, 2023. https://octostudy.com/the-play-an-enemy-of-the-people-by-henrik-ibsen/.


OctoStudy. "The Play “An Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen." April 5, 2023. https://octostudy.com/the-play-an-enemy-of-the-people-by-henrik-ibsen/.


OctoStudy. 2023. "The Play “An Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen." April 5, 2023. https://octostudy.com/the-play-an-enemy-of-the-people-by-henrik-ibsen/.


OctoStudy. (2023) 'The Play “An Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen'. 5 April.

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