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An Enemy of the People

An Enemy of the People


by Henrik Ibsen

An Enemy of the People Act 2 Summary

  • The Doctor's living room.
  • Mrs. Stockmann enters carrying a sealed letter. She calls for her husband, saying it's a letter from his brother.
  • Stockmann enters and opens the letter.
  • His brother has returned the stuff the Doctor sent to him in Act 1 and is coming by for a visit.
  • Mrs. Stockmann worries that the Mayor will be jealous of the Doctor for having made such an important discovery.
  • Dr. Stockmann says his brother will be glad at heart, but that his brother does indeed get jealous when someone else does something good for the town.
  • Mrs. Stockmann suggests that he share the honor with his brother, letting him take some of the credit too.
  • The Doctor replies that he doesn't care who gets the credit as long as wrong is put right.
  • Old Morten Kiil, Mrs. Stockmann's father, pokes his head in the door.
  • Petra told her grandfather about her father's discovery earlier in the morning.
  • Kiil has a hard time believing in swarms of invisible animals in the water, but thinks it's really amusing that his son-in-law is messing with the Mayor.
  • The old man doesn't like the Mayor and his cronies because they hounded him off the Town Council.
  • As Kiil shambles off, Hovstad enters.
  • Hovstad is all fired up about this polluted water business. He says that the real corruption is in the town's elected officials, not the swamp where the water comes from.
  • Dr. Stockmann says that the officials aren't as bad as Hovstad makes them out to be.
  • Hovstad disagrees, and claims he's going to stick it to the Mayor and friends in the paper.
  • Dr. Stockmann doesn't think that will be necessary. He's sure his brother will put things right. What other choice does the Mayor have?
  • Hovstad doesn't buy Dr. Stockmann's argument. He goes on about how he came from a poor background and is sick of the upper-class citizens taking advantage of the lower classes.
  • Aslaksen, the printer at the paper, enters.
  • Aslaksen tells Dr. Stockmann that the Doctor has his support.
  • It comes up that Aslaksen is Chairman of the Householders' Association and a leader among the tradesmen in town. With Aslaksen's support Dr. Stockmann will have a solid majority behind him. Aslaksen plans to put together a demonstration to show the town's support for the Doctor. All of this will be handled very temperately. Aslaksen doesn't want to ruffle any feathers.
  • Dr. Stockmann is grateful, but he isn't sure all this fuss is necessary.
  • Just the same, Aslaksen also plans to send a testimonial around town for everybody to sign, showing their support for the Doctor. This petition will be worded very moderately so a not to offend the authorities. Apparently moderation is Aslaksen's middle name.
  • Dr. Stockmann thanks Aslaksen for his support, but still wonders if all these precautions will be needed.
  • Aslaksen points out that the authorities are usually pretty slow to fix things.
  • Hovstad brings up again he's really going to stick it to the officials in tomorrow's paper.
  • Aslaksen tells Hovstad to proceed with temperance. There's no need to rile up the officials. With that, the temperate Aslaksen exits.
  • Hovstad criticizes Aslaksen, saying that it's meek people like him that keep the town from ever changing for the better. Hovstad thinks it's time for more radical change. The authorities need to be directly challenged.
  • Dr. Stockmann half-heartedly agrees, but tells Hovstad not to print anything until he (the Doctor) has spoken to his brother.
  • Stockmann hands Hovstad his report on the bacteria-ridden water, and tells him he can print it in tomorrow's paper if the Mayor refuses to do anything about the problem.
  • As Hovstad exits, the Doctor assures him that publishing an article won't be necessary.
  • Petra and Mrs. Stockmann enter.
  • Dr. Stockmann tells his wife and daughter all about the massive amount of support he's getting. He's very excited to have the support of the majority behind him.
  • Mrs. Stockmann and Petra excuse themselves as the Mayor shows up.
  • The Mayor is none too happy about his brother's scientific findings. Apparently, it will cost a fortune to fix all the pipes, and the project would take two years to complete. The Mayor is afraid that other nearby towns would build their own baths in the meantime, and steal all the clients.
  • Mayor Stockmann intimates that his brother is exaggerating the danger the Baths pose, and that if Dr. Stockmann is any kind of doctor at all he ought to be able to treat whatever sicknesses arise.
  • The Doctor is highly offended and points out that the cases of disease will get worse when the hot summer weather arrives.
  • The Mayor says they might be able to make a few small improvements in time for the busy summer season, providing they're not too expensive.
  • Getting really upset, Dr. Stockmann says he'll never be a party to such a fraud. He accuses the Mayor of not admitting the truth because the Mayor chose where the pipes were laid. Basically, it's all the Mayor's fault, and he won't admit his wrong.
  • Mayor Stockmann orders his brother to keep everything quiet, claiming it's for the good of the people.
  • Dr. Stockmann says it's too late; too many people, including the guys at the newspaper, already know about the situation.
  • The Mayor accuses his brother of behaving rashly, claiming Dr. Stockmann has a history of publishing his ideas as soon as he comes up with them.
  • Dr. Stockmann asserts that it's a citizen's duty to share new ideas with the people.
  • His brother retorts that all the people need is the same good, old-fashioned ideas that they've always had.
  • Dr. Stockmann thinks that's the stupidest thing he's ever heard.
  • The Mayor tells the Doctor that he ought to be more grateful, because the Mayor was the one that got him the job as head medical officer at the Baths.
  • Dr. Stockmann says he deserved the position. He was the one who petitioned for years for the Baths to be built in the first place.
  • Yes, says the Mayor, and when the time was right we officials did something about it.
  • Yeah, and you screwed the whole thing up, the Doctor retorts.
  • Mayor Stockmann accuses his brother of being purposely rebellious and always challenging authority.
  • The Mayor orders his brother to make a public statement that there's nothing wrong with the Baths.
  • The Doctor says he'll do no such thing, and that he'll say whatever he pleases to anybody he wants.
  • Mayor Stockmann again orders his brother to obey him.
  • Petra, who's been eavesdropping, bursts in the room along with Mrs. Stockmann. She tells her father that he doesn't have to stand for this kind of treatment.
  • The Mayor tells his brother that if he won't make an announcement saying the Baths are safe, then the Mayor will just have to issue a statement himself.
  • Dr. Stockmann retorts that he'll just publish a denial of the whole thing.
  • In that case, says the Mayor, you'll be fired.
  • The Doctor is shocked.
  • The Mayor appeals to Mrs. Stockmann to talk some sense into her husband.
  • Dr. Stockmann warns his brother to leave his family out of it.
  • The Mayor accuses his brother of trying to destroy the town.
  • Dr. Stockmann says that it's the Mayor who is destroying the town by allowing it to exist in a state of corruption.
  • The Mayor accuses his brother of being a public enemy.
  • The furious Dr. Stockmann advances on his brother. Petra and Mrs. Stockmann hold the doctor back.
  • The Mayor makes a hasty retreat.
  • Dr. Stockmann declares that he should've stood up to his brother a long time ago. Petra agrees.
  • Mrs. Stockmann warns her husband that his brother is very powerful.
  • The Doctor isn't worried at all, because he has the solid majority behind him.
  • His wife reminds him to think about the good of the family. Petra can support herself, but what will she and the boys do if he gets fired?
  • Dr. Stockmann says he had to stand up to his brother no matter what. It's his duty to society.

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