Based on the Arthur Miller’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s play An Enemy of the People, the three characters are under analysis, namely: Tom Stockman, Peter Stockman, and Catherine Stockman. All of them have a different position according to the problem highlighted by Dr. Stockman. The fight for truth and morality is always a difficult one. Thus, the main pressure falls down on Tom Stockman and his “trilemma” seems to be unresolved.
Tom Stockman’s urge for saving people of Kirsten Springs and tourists coming to the town is too high. He has evidences, but his status as an expert is nothing against the will of the entire town to grow in prosperity. Greed of the majority confronts with sound-mindedness and reasonability of the minority. Tom is helpless in persuading the public in impossibility of baths exploitation. He is straight-forward in his arguments. Therefore, he suffers from being misunderstood and wrongfully treated by the rest. He has plenty of ideas on finding out potential problems within Kirsten Springs and in providing particular solutions (Miller and Ibsen 22). However, the voice of a witty man is nothing against the voice of masses. He faces difficulties with his wife and family and with his brother and town’s authority. It makes him weak as his freedom of word is confined to what others say.
Peter Stockman as an elder brother provides no opportunity for Tom’s findings. The main reason is that it will affect the town’s popularity and well-being among other towns like Kirsten Springs. In this respect Peter is quite narrow-minded and unable to think of people’s lives and their health against the lucre of future profits. He is an overall manifestation of greed and corruption as he even doubts in genuinely scientific evidences which makes Tom’s theory truthful. Hence, Peter is giving up on his brother which means he is far from sound-mindedness and humane. Furthermore, Peter’s position is in many points caused by his loneliness and inability to take care of somebody else except of himself (Miller and Ibsen 28). Nevertheless, he manifests a bureaucratic machine which has nothing to do with reason.
Catherine Stockman behaves as if she is not Tom’s wife as her fears do not coincide with the promise of giving support to her husband until the end of times. She is highly influenced by the public opinion, and, therefore, she cannot think of the problem somewhat independently. Instead of following her husband’s arguments, she betrays Tom and takes the side of his enemies headed by Peter. It is insanity as she treats Tom as a stranger or as someone to destroy Kirsten Springs. Moreover, she is, probably, the biggest impediment in Tom’s search of truth as she represents Tom’s family. Drawbacks in family life are always one of the most difficult issues in a man’s life. Thus, her negative attitude toward Tom outlines her faithlessness to him. She acts as if life taught her nothing. Besides, she is a heartbreaker as she revealed her betrayal at an inflection point for Tom and, thus, embarrassed him causing an emotional shock (Miller and Ibsen 78).
In fact, the main association that flashes is Tom’s role of being a savior to his town. He is like Jesus Christ whose words were many times refused by the contemporaries and authorities. Tom also suffers from negativism of the society. He puts his duty to profession as the main drive toward truth and well-being. However, haunted by the words of his brother and his wife, he is helpless to get through the follies of the society.
In his situation, it is vital to be persistent in his profession. Definitely, it violates his duties to his family and employer, but it is the optimal way to seek truth in life which is worth of it. As they say, no man is a prophet in his own land. This is why one of the best suggestions for Tom is to stand tough against what his wife says and be persistent in giving more evidences individually to her and his brother Peter. Moreover, to justify those evidences, Tom is to call for experts from the University so that they could serve as witnesses or the third party. Otherwise, Tom is alone in his arguments.
Based on Tom Stockman’s example, everyone may confront the same situation. Society will be society. The main power belongs to the majority impacted by what the authorities will convince them to do. It is a universal truth. For example, if a person wants to make his/her town cleaner by means of more funding into the municipal authority, it will not do as it may affect officials’ pockets. Thus, a word of truth may be just neglected and remained unanswered if it does not go hand in hand with the officials’ goals.
Dr. Stockman is, first of all, a devoted scientist. Second, he is well dedicated to his town as the place where he lives. He tries to take care of its well-being, he feels his own responsibility, and, finally, he attacks the problem even though he is convicted a traitor to his town. Is it really so? No, it is not. Tom follows the way of his mind and heart. Admittedly, he is a hero whose participation is too much to make his opponents nervous. Furthermore, another person in Tom’s stead would rather highlight the dangers and then wait until the ominous moment comes. In turn, it would inflict many diseases and other problems to health of people. However, Dr. Stockman fights against absurdity of his brother’s statement before the launch of baths. It is a remarkable case of humanity on the part of the main character. Hence, he is right in Kirsten Springs.
Thus, a reflective analysis on the play by Arthur Miller showed a controversial position of the main characters toward Tom Stockman. He appeared to be an outcast due to his attempt to prevent a disaster. However, the public opinion and officials cannot listen to the word of reason, but to the voice of greed and potential lucre against all odds.