Dr. Stockmann represents the extreme idealist who has no concept of the practical side of life. His idealism blinds him to the common procedures of everyday activity.
As an idealist, Dr. Stockmann believes strongly in individual freedom and the right of every man to express himself freely. He cannot become a party to any dishonest or unethical act. Thus, he cannot bend in any sense of the word. He is accurately characterized as too impetuous. As soon as he finds out about the bad sanitary conditions at the baths, he immediately makes the news public and refuses to listen to any compromise and demands that the water pipes be re-laid. He does not try to convince the people of his view, but instead, goes directly and blindly at a demanded improvement. It is, therefore, his lack of tact and understanding of the practical issues which place him in such an awkward position.
There is, however, a touch of jealous revenge in Dr. Stockmann's actions. He was annoyed that the Burgomaster did not build the pipes according to the doctor's original specifications, and thus he is delighted that he is able to prove the Burgomaster to be wrong.
Furthermore, Dr. Stockmann's idealism is somewhat muddled. He is not consistent. At one point he maintains that the common people have no right to a voice in the government. But this is what the Burgomaster had previously told the doctor and the doctor had stoutly asserted the right of every citizen to express his own views. Likewise, he suggests that the common people are like curs or impure animals and can never be educated to take a significant role in the development of a society. Yet at the end he is going to take some "street-curs" and educate them to run the wolves out of the government.
Dr. Stockmann is saved as a character because he puts his principles above his own desires and gains. He is not tempted by financial rewards enough to deny the truth of the condition of the baths. He is thoroughly disgusted by the petty and dishonest interpretations placed on his actions. And as a man of great personal integrity, he spurns a large inheritance in order to maintain an ethical and moral responsibility to himself and to his community.