When the Doctor discovers that the water of the Baths is contaminated he feels compelled to expose the truth. When his brother, the Mayor, tries to keep it quiet, the Dr. Stockmann begins to see that the corruption in the town isn't just in the water. By the end of the first stage, our hero is determined to cleanse his beloved town of all the dirtiness.
Dr. Stockmann sets off on his quest bursting with confidence. Aslaksen, the head of the Householders' Association, and Hovstad, the editor of the newspaper, have pledged their support. Dr. Stockmann is certain that his brother, the Mayor, will be defeated, and that mighty truth will conquer all. Of course, he's in for a nasty surprise, when the Mayor twists all his allies against him. As this stage draws to a close, things are looking bleak for the Doctor. Will he ever be able to expose the truth?
At first it looks like Stockmann is finally going to have his say. Despite the fact that the paper has refused to print his article about the Baths, he's called a public meeting to read his findings aloud. Unfortunately, the crafty Mayor manipulates the rules of meeting and keeps his brother from reading the damaging information. Enraged, Dr. Stockmann instead launches into an angry tirade. He now sees that the truth he is trying to expose goes much deeper than the dirty waters of the Baths or the corruption of local politicians. Stockmann goes off about how the real enemy of the truth in the country is the members of the ignorant majority who are afraid to hear it. The Doctor's words not only cause a riot, but also get him branded as an enemy of the people.
This stage is marked by a series of visitors to the Doctor's house. The Mayor shows up to try and get him to retract his statements in return for a possible job in the future. Morten Kiil, Stockmann's father-in-law, tries to force the Doctor to recant by threatening Stockmann family's inheritance. Aslaksen and Hovstad drop by to try and get in on what they think is a scheme to take over the Baths. In the end, Dr. Stockmann resists all temptation and emerges from the final ordeals even more dedicated to his quest for truth.
By the final stage, our hero's quest has only grown bigger. He began only wanting to expose the truth of the Baths, but by the end he wants to expose the truth of all of human society. The first step in this will be to start a school with his daughter, Petra, to educate the poor. An Enemy of the People is different from many other quest stories, in that by the end of the play, our hero's quest has only just begun.