Moral Combat in An Enemy of the People: Public Health versus Private Interests

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Terrance C. McConnell, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:

Abstract: Dr. Thomas Stockmann, the protagonist of Ibsen's play, An Enemy of the People, discovers a serious health threat in the Baths of his Norwegian town. The Baths have been marketed as a health resort to lure visitors. Dr. Stockmann alerts officials about the problem and assumes that they will close the Baths until it is corrected. He is met with fierce resistance, however. His brother, the town's mayor, favors keeping the Baths open and correcting the problem gradually. He advances multiple arguments that appeal to the economic interests of the town and Thomas's role-related obligation as a citizen. His wife, Katherine, wants him to cooperate with the mayor. She marshals several arguments that appeal to his obligations as a father. This paper reconstructs and examines the competing arguments, shows how Ibsen's play has both contemporary relevance and moral depth, and demonstrates how Dr. Stockmann's responses can be interpreted as an argument that complying with his duties to protect the public health do not force him to renege on his core commitments as a parent and as a citizen.

Additional Information

Public Health Ethics, 3(1), 80-86
Language: English
Date: 2010
Thomas Stockmann, Henrik Ibsen, An Enemy of the People, contemporary relevance, moral depth, role-related obligation

Email this document to