Fishkill Ridge
Community Heritage

An Enemy of the People

   

Photograph of Fishkill Ridge The play An Enemy of the People is as relevant today, as it was when written by Henrik Ibsen in 1872.

The story takes place in a small town in Norway. The town is famous for, and has prospered from, its “healing spas”. However, the tourists who are the town's economic life-blood do not arrive ill, they get ill when visiting the spas. Dr. Thomas Stockmann, a public-minded doctor, has the water tested and discovers the water supply for the baths is contaminated from a tannery upstream. The doctor insists the spa be closed until a new water system is built.

In his effort to clean up the water supply, Dr. Stockmann runs into political cowards (namely his brother the mayor), sold-out journalists, shortsighted armchair economists, and a benighted citizenry. The good doctor is systematically blacklisted and his livelihood is threatened. Ultimately, the townspeople turn into an angry mob, attacking the doctor's home and family, and he and his family are all but driven out of the town he is trying to save.

This dramatization speaks volumes about the difficulty of taking scientific knowledge and turning it into political action. Opponents pursue our heroic doctor as an “enemy of the people” because his discovery threatens the “bottom line” of the businessmen and politicians in the town.

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View of Fishkill Creek from Bridge St.

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