An Enemy of the People
by Henrik Ibsen
An Enemy of the People Rules and Order 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.
Petra: "Mrs. Busk showed me no less than three letters she received this morning […] declaring […] that my views on various subjects are extremely emancipated […] now that this report about me is being spread, she dare not keep me on any longer." (4.37-43)
Dr. Stockmann isn't the only rebel in the family. Petra's bucking of social norms, especially when it comes to religion, has caught up with her. Once again we see how defying the accepted rules of behavior can have major consequences.
Dr. Stockmann: "If I don't come to the rescue of the "People's Messenger,"
[…] you will hunt me down, […] try to throttle me as a dog does a hare."
Hovstad: "It is a natural law; every animal must fight for its own livelihood." (5.238-239)
Now we have a different kind of order being brought up in the play. It's expanded beyond the laws of man and into the laws of nature, the law of the jungle, survival of the fittest. Could it be that Ibsen is trying to show that no matter how removed we as humans think we are from nature, that we're still subject to the natural order? This isn't the first time there's been allusions to this either. Earlier in the play, during the Doctor's big speech, he talks about how humans are simply animals – pretty amazing animals, but the animals just the same. He also goes on about how only the best animals should rule the others. Hmmm, sounds like survival of the fittest to us.
Dr. Stockmann: "It is the party leaders that must be exterminated. A party leader is like a wolf, you see--like a voracious wolf. He requires a certain number of smaller victims to prey upon every year, if he is to live." (5.279)
Here again, there's a connection between the laws of man and the laws of nature. All the political maneuverings of the party leaders are compared to vicious wolves, the creatures at the top of the food chain. We have some questions, though, for the Doctor: what happens when the party leaders are eliminated? Will he be the new leader? Won't he end up preying on people as well? Isn't that just the way the food chain works?