In many of his plays Ibsen introduces antecedent action not only in the exposition but throughout the play. Does he here?How successfully does he solve the difficult problem of exposition in Act 1?
Jessica Pope | Certified Educator
Ibsen uses dialogue and setting to introduce antecedent action and solve the problem of exposition in Act 1 of "An Enemy of the People." He gives his characters reasons to state important facts, thus giving his readers information about what has occured before the play. For example, during dinner Dr. Stockmann and his wife discuss proudly his recent appointment as medical officer of the town's bath system. This lets the audience know of Dr. Stockmann's role in the community. Dr. Stockmann and his brother (the town mayor) argue over town politics and also over Dr. Stockmann's suggestion that the youth represent forward-thinking progress and action. The argument demonstrates the tense relationship between the two. Ibsen also uses setting to give readers important backgroun information. Act 1 takes place in the Stockmanns' dining room, a lavish and ornate room that shows off their class status. Numerous influential community members are present at the dinner, inlcuding the mayor and the editor of the town newspaper. At the end of Act 1, the dinner guests praise Dr. Stockmann for his finding that the town water is polluted. This praise, combined with the Stockmann's wealth and influence, demonstrate that Dr. Stockmann is a potential rival to his brother the mayor in terms of influencing town politics. Thus, through dialogue and setting, Ibsen gives the audience the information they need to infer antecedent action and understand the play's plot development.