What one reviewer said about An Enemy of the People by Christopher Hampton, Henrik Johan Ibsen:
"An Enemy of the People," by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, has been published as part of the Dover Thrift Edition series (that's the version I read for purposes of this review). The Dover edition is a republication of an anonymous translation. The back cover data notes that the play was first staged in 1883.
"Enemy" tells the story of Dr. Thomas Stockmann, a medical officer for his town's public baths. When he discovers that the baths are contaminated and pose a health hazard, he is led into conflict with his brother Peter, who is the town's mayor. The tension increases as the drama moves towards its conclusion.
"Enemy" is an intriguing piece of literature. While reading it I was struck by how similar the story is to that of the classic film "Jaws": in both stories, a political leader is at odds with an idealistic public servant who is concerned about a danger involving public waters!
The play contains much thought-provoking dialogue. Ibsen looks at the interrelationships among politicians, the press, science, and the general public. His characters question issues of truth, authority, and majority rule. Dr. Stockmann begins as a noble character, but I thought he becomes too over-the-top and in some scenes is reduced to a shrill, dogmatic cartoon (especially when he delivers a bizarre rant about poodles and hens). I honestly wasn't sure what Ibsen was trying to accomplish in some of the doctor's more outrageous dialogue.
Still, "Enemy" remains a compelling piece of art. For an intriguing companion text, try "Inherit the Wind," by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, which has some similar themes and motifs.
The play has clearly illustrated how nepotism has eroded public services and resources. It serves as a warning to corrupt officers.
Download An Enemy Of The People from Project Gutenberg
or find a paper copy
Other books by Henrik:
- Hedda Gabler
- The Lady From The Sea
- The Master Builder
- Pillars of Society
- When We Dead Awaken
- The Doll's House
- Early Plays
- Little Eyolf
- The Feast at Solhoug