In An Enemy of The People, who proposes solutions?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In this important play by Ibsen, the tyranny of the majority and the way that leaders often bow to public opinion regardless of whether it is the right thing to do or not is exposed through the character of Dr. Stockmann, who discovers that the drainage system of the bathing complex is seriously contaminated. In Act I, he proposes a solution of replacing the water system which will solve the problem by allowing the various impurities that are present in the water to be removed. However, this solution is something that places him in conflict with both the leadership of the town and the people within it. In a sense. Dr. Stockmann and the issue of the baths is secondary to the play's real concern, which is the importance of the people and the way that somebody like Dr. Stockmann, who is actually acting with the best interests of the people at heart, can be perceived as an enemy of those people. Note how this is established in the following quote:

The majority is never right. Never, I tell you! That's one of these lies in society that no free and intelligent man can help rebelling against. Who are the people that make up the biggest proportion of the population--the intelligent ones or the fools?

Although Dr. Stockmann's comments here could be regarded as being rather critical of the majority, at the same time Ibsen uses him to make a serious point about the way that leaders often act not to do good but to keep the people happy. The central irony of this play is the way that the good intentions of Dr. Stockmann actually lead to his isolation and rejection by the town.


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