En folkefiende or “An Enemy of the people”

Without further distractions, I am continuing with reading Henrik Ibsen, for now. Today, its “An Enemy of the people“.

Again, Ibsen catches…and holds my attention throughout… with the pure beauty of a simple and realistic narrative! Timeless classic!!

I would call this particular scene a defining moment … as far as I am concerned:
Mrs. Stockmann: But this is too shameful! Why should every one turn against you like that?
Dr. Stockmann (angrily): I will tell you why. It is because all the men in this town are old women—like you; they all think of nothing but their families, and never of the community.
Mrs. Stockmann (putting her arm into his): Then I will show them that an old woman can be a man for once. I am going to stand by you, Thomas!
Dr. Stockmann: Bravely said, Katherine! It shall be made public—as I am a living soul! If I can’t hire a hall, I shall hire a drum, and parade the town with it and read it at every street-corner.

And a few more that I loved reading and experiencing:

1) Some gems from Dr Stockmann’s speech in Act 4, which still appear to hold true, 130 years after they were written!

Dr. Stockmann: The majority never has right on its side. Never, I say! That is one of these social lies against which an independent, intelligent man must wage war. Who is it that constitute the majority of the population in a country? Is it the clever folk, or the stupid? I don’t imagine you will dispute the fact that at present the stupid people are in an absolutely overwhelming majority all the world over. But, good Lord!—you can never pretend that it is right that the stupid folk should govern the clever ones I (Uproar and cries.) Oh, yes—you can shout me down, I know! But you cannot answer me. The majority has might on its side—unfortunately; but right it has not. I am in the right—I and a few other scattered individuals. The minority is always in the right. (Renewed uproar.)

Dr. Stockmann: Good heavens—of course I am, Mr. Hovstad! I propose to raise a revolution against the lie that the majority has the monopoly of the truth. What sort of truths are they that the majority usually supports? They are truths that are of such advanced age that they are beginning to break up. And if a truth is as old as that, it is also in a fair way to become a lie, gentlemen. (Laughter and mocking cries.) Yes, believe me or not, as you like; but truths are by no means as long-lived at Methuselah—as some folk imagine. A normally constituted truth lives, let us say, as a rule seventeen or eighteen, or at most twenty years—seldom longer. But truths as aged as that are always worn frightfully thin, and nevertheless it is only then that the majority recognises them and recommends them to the community as wholesome moral nourishment. There is no great nutritive value in that sort of fare, I can assure you; and, as a doctor, I ought to know. These “majority truths” are like last year’s cured meat—like rancid, tainted ham; and they are the origin of the moral scurvy that is rampant in our communities.


2) And towards the climax –

Mrs. Stockmann: There is no doubt they have behaved very ill toward you, Thomas; but is that sufficient reason for our leaving our native country for good and all?

Dr. Stockmann: If we went to another town, do you suppose we should not find the common people just as insolent as they are here? Depend upon it, there is not much to choose between them. Oh, well, let the curs snap—that is not the worst part of it. The worst is that, from one end of this country to the other, every man is the slave of his Party. Although, as far as that goes, I daresay it is not much better in the free West either; the compact majority, and liberal public opinion, and all that infernal old bag of tricks are probably rampant there too. But there things are done on a larger scale, you see. They may kill you, but they won’t put you to death by slow torture. They don’t squeeze a free man’s soul in a vice, as they do here. And, if need be, one can live in solitude. (Walks up and down.) If only I knew where there was a virgin forest or a small South Sea island for sale, cheap—

3) And the concluding scene….

Morten: And what are we going to do, when you have made liberal-minded and high-minded men of us?
Dr. Stockmann: Then you shall drive all the wolves out of the country, my boys!
(EJLIF looks rather doubtful about it; MORTEN jumps about crying “Hurrah!”)
Mrs. Stockmann: Let us hope it won’t be the wolves that will drive you out of the country, Thomas.
Dr. Stockmann: Are you out of your mind, Katherine? Drive me out! Now—when I am the strongest man in the town!
Mrs. Stockmann: The strongest—now?
Dr. Stockmann. Yes, and I will go so far as to say that now I am the strongest man in the whole world.
Morten: I say!
Dr. Stockmann (lowering his voice). Hush! You mustn’t say anything about it yet; but I have made a great discovery.
Mrs. Stockmann: Another one?
Dr. Stockmann: Yes. (Gathers them round him, and says confidentially:) It is this, let me tell you—that the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.
Mrs. Stockmann: (smiling and shaking her head). Oh, Thomas, Thomas!
Petra: (encouragingly, as she grasps her father’s hands). Father!
Timeless Classic!

Satyajit Ray made a movie “Ghanashatru” with Soumitra Chatterjee…based on this play. And now… I am desperate to watch it at the first chance I get! 🙂

Published in: on January 22, 2012 at 8:27 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. …and I finally watched Ganashatru! 🙂
    Although it is not a strict adaptation, I loved the way Ray made it…and also the way he Indianized the theme.

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