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Summary of Arthur Miller’s Adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s an Enemy of the People

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An Enemy of the People was first written by Henrik Ibsen in the nineteenth century. It was set in a Norwegian village. Miller requested the rights to write an adaptation of the play in 1950. He kept much of the original text and translated it to the English language. What is remarkable is that the theme is universal in that it applies to several different countries during various periods of time. We will explore these themes later in this lesson.

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This play addresses many social issues. It ties in family, truth, righteousness, community, and politics. It really demonstrates how one issue can have many “truths” to it and how different people, even within ones own family, can see the same thing in total different perspectives; and in doing that act out against one another in an attempt to prove that one’s own perspective is the “right” or only one. In human nature, we are not one to compromise. We see so many things as one way or another, right or wrong; rarely do we seek to find the common ground between the two. In this play, common ground is never found, and in the end leaves a family broken up and a society left to wonder. Dr. Thomas Stockmann refused to give in, and in doing so lost parts of his family, his career, even his property, but never the less remained true to himself. This characteristic is one of great strength in my opinion. There are fewer and fewer people in my mind today, that believe so passionately in what they do and say, that they are willing to risk everything for it

Dr. Stockmann’s character portrays extreme courage and independence. The playwright Arthur Miller adapted this play in the 1950s for its strong minority rights message at a time when those in power were viewing many U.S. artists with liberal politics as enemies of the people. Miller keeps Dr. Stockmann”s strong idealism and mistrust of the majority but shortens and softens his tirades in which pro-minority is hard to distinguish from arguments for genetic superiority.

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“An Enemy of The People” is a play that was written in 1882 by Henrik Ibsen. Ibsen had first written the title in Norwegian as En folkefiende. Ibsen wrote the play in answering the peoples say against his play “Ghosts” which people then considered it indecent (Kane, Leslie, 1999)

“An enemy of the people” views certain practices in the political systems that were in rise and needed to be condemned. This is a story of one man, Dr Stockman who struggles much to speak the realty and do what he thought to be good in the face of the socially in-tolerated vicinity. Dr Stockman does all these because of his brave and he represents the playwright’s own voice. Dr Stockman reveals that the water used by tourists was been contaminated but mayor, Peter Stockman, and his followers neglect the claims so that they continue benefiting from the tourists (Ibsen, Henrik, 2008). “Glengarry Glen Ross” is a play that was written hundred years after “an enemy of the people” was written. David Mamet wrote the play “Glengarry Glen Ross” and that was in 1982. Mamet was born in Chicago in 1947 and he began getting interests in writing after college. The play revolves around Mamet’s experiences in a Chicago real estate where the real estate agents are prepared to do some illegal acts and to sell the estate to un-open buyers. In this study, growth of drama over the 100 years shall be discussed basing on the two plays already summarized.

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In conclusion, the goal of the play Wright in An Enemy of the People is to criticize the principles of democracy. He argues that, in matters of right and wrong individual superiority matters more than that of the masses which is mostly guided by the self-advancing demagogues. One fundamental principle of our democratic culture holds that the majority of the people will make the right decision when confronted with a choice. The popularity of music, movies, fashion, etc. is evaluated based on what the majority of people decide to like. Political issues, from a motion at a school board meeting to a presidential election, are guided by decisions on the majority.

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Ibsen, Henrik. An Enemy of the People. Maryland: Filiquarian Publishing, LLC. 2007.

Ibsen, Henrik. Works of Henrik Ibsen: Including Peer Gynt, A Doll’s House, Ghosts, The Wild Duck, Hedda Gabler & more Mobi Collected Works. New Jersey, NJ: Cengage. 2008.

Kane, Leslie. David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross: text and performance. New York: Routledge, 1999.

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