An Enemy of the People By Henrik Ibsen Summary and Analysis Act V

Summary

Dr. Stockmann's home is in disorder. He appears holding a stone which someone cast through his window. He wants to save it as a reminder of his days of persecution. He receives a letter from the landlord giving him notice to move. Petra arrives from the school and tells her family that she has been dismissed. All of this is because the people are afraid to go against the popular opinion. Captain Horster comes in and tells them that he has lost his ship because the owner is afraid of popular opinion. Next the Burgomaster arrives and hands Dr. Stockmann his dismissal from the baths. The Burgomaster tells Dr.

Stockmann that a circular is being sent around advising people not to engage Dr. Stockmann. He suggests to Dr. Stockmann that he could be reinstated in a couple of months if he would write a document saying that all of his ideas about the baths were false. But Dr. Stockmann refuses.

The Burgomaster accuses Doctor Stockmann of acting so highly because he knows of old Morton Kiil's will. But Dr. Stockmann knows nothing. The Burgomaster tells him that old Morton Kiil is wealthy and is leaving a large portion of his fortune to Dr. Stockmann's children and that he and Mrs. Stockmann are to have the "life-interest" on it. Dr. Stockmann is tremendously relieved to know that his wife and children are taken care of. The Burgomaster accuses Dr. Stockmann of creating all the trouble simply because Old Morton Kiil has a quarrel with the town council. Dr. Stockmann is almost speechless and calls his wife to scrub the floor where the Burgomaster walked out.

Shortly, Old Morton Kiil comes to call upon Dr. Stockmann. He explains that he has been out buying up shares of the baths with the money which he was to leave Mrs. Stockmann and the children. He feels that his tannery is the cause of the foulness in the water and he wants Stockmann to clear the Morton Kiil name. Thus, if Dr. Stockmann continues in his insistence upon the destructive element involved in the baths, then he is cutting off his own family from a large inheritance. Dr. Stockmann is stunned, and says he will talk to his wife. After all, the people have turned against him and he can do very little. He is to let Morton Kiil know by two o'clock.

As Morton Kiil is leaving, Hovstad and Aslaksen arrive. They immediately ask Dr. Stockmann if his father-in-law hasn't been buying stocks in the baths. Then they suggest it would have been more prudent of Dr. Stockmann to have let them in on his little plan of secretly buying up the baths stocks after giving out the false rumors. This is too much for Dr. Stockmann. He grabs his stick and drives both men out of the house. He calls Petra and sends his answer immediately to Old Morton Kiil. He then tells his wife that they will stay in the town and fight all the worse elements. He will found a school and teach the street curs how to think and act properly. He has, he says, learned one great lesson — the strongest man is the man who stands alone.

Analysis

Act V is a practical or materialistic test of Dr. Stockmann's idealism. In the last act, we saw Aslaksen and Hovstad retract when they stood to lose something personally. This act now confronts Dr. Stockmann with great personal losses if he continues to assert his views. This test is necessary before we can formulate a complete view of Dr. Stockmann.

Before he faces his test, he first learns that his views have caused Captain Horster to lose his ship and Petra to lose her position in the school. Furthermore he has faced his own dismissal from the baths. Thus when Old Morton Kiil comes to him asking him to retract his charges or else all of his inheritance will go to charity, Dr. Stockmann is about ready to yield to the public opinion. He is prevented by the appearance of Hovstad and Aslaksen. When Dr. Stockmann sees that he can gain the admiration of his fellow towns-men by admitting that he engineered the entire plan so as to gain control of the stock of the baths, this accusation (or this admiration) is worse than the rejection by the people. He therefore decides to stand by his idealistic views.

Finally we must note that Dr. Stockmann's idealism is not consistent. In Act IV he denied that the common curs could be of any value to society. But in Act V, he says he is going to take the common "street-curs" and educate them into the leading men of society who will then drive out all the bureaucrats. His saving factor, however, is his strong belief in that which is right.

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