The Alienated Moralist in an Enemy of the People (Three Literary Studies: No. 1) (Critical Essay) - Modern Age
AN INDIVIDUAL WHO DEFIES society because of his moral convictions, and consequently suffers for his independent and unbending stand, is not an unfamiliar phenomenon, whether in the annals of human history or in the experience of contemporary societies. The prophet who proclaims an unpopular message, the religious reformer who turns into a critic of an established church, the whistle-blower who exposes government abuse come to mind. This perennial issue was dramatized with great ingenuity and clarity by Henrik Ibsen in his drama, An Enemy of the People. Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) published this play in 1882, and it was performed in Scandinavia and subsequently in other European countries. The Norwegian original was translated into various languages. The play, as virtually any dramatic presentation, takes place in a certain place and time--though the place is not identified geographically but merely described as a coastal town in southern Norway, and the time is simply assumed to be coeval with the publication of the drama or its imminent presentation. Yet this fairly concrete framework in no way binds and limits the drama and its message to a passing moment of history in a Scandinavian setting. The message is universal in scope and it is as relevant today as it may have been at the end of the nineteenth century.