An Enemy of the People
by Henrik Ibsen
An Enemy of the People Principles Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Line). Every time a character talks counts as one line, even if what they say turns into a long monologue. We used R. Farquharson Sharp's translation.
Dr. Stockmann: "Truth and the People will win the fight, you may be certain! I see the whole of the broad-minded middle class marching like a victorious army--!" (3.291)
At this point in the play, the Doctor is totally idealistic about the goodwill and strength of the people. He feels that they share his love of the truth above all things. Be sure to take note of how his opinion of the majority change as the reality of his situation becomes clear to him.
Dr. Stockmann: "The truths of which the masses now approve are the very truths that the fighters at the outposts held to in the days of our grandfathers. […] I do not believe there is any other well-ascertained truth except this, that no community can live a healthy life if it is nourished only on such old marrowless truths." (4.103)
OK, so the good Doctor is basically saying that whatever the masses think is the truth is pretty much never the truth. The real truth can only be seen by educated radicals on the outskirts of society (like the Doctor). Eventually the beliefs of the outsiders become the beliefs of the majority. However, by that point in time those "truths" are usually not the truth anymore, and the same cycle starts all over again. If the Doctor's theory is right, it seems like it might make it pretty hard to stick to any principles at all. No matter what a person believes, eventually it won't be the truth anymore. Here's a question: if there's no ultimate truth, then why strive for progress at all? Perhaps the Doctor is saying that forward motion itself, the struggle to steadily improve our understanding, is the only real principle a person should pursue.
Dr. Stockmann: (with growing fervor) "All who live by lies ought to be exterminated like vermin!" (4.142)
Whoa, that's a pretty hardcore statement. Has the Doctor gone over the edge here, or is he just following his beliefs to their logical conclusion? With statements like this, does he deserve to be called a public enemy, or is he just telling the community what it needs to hear? What do you think?