In Arthur Miller’s play “An Enemy of the people,” Dr. Tom Stockmann represents the science institution found in our society. Although he made a discovery that he thought may be of assistance to the people, they turned against him as he pressed for changes to be made to the polluted Kirsten Springs.
He is idealistic and excitable and his duty to his profession takes precedence over his duty to his family and employer. In this matter, Stockman is the only one who is right since he does not compromise his moral obligations to the society, although he is branded “an enemy of the people”.
His brother, Peter Stockman, who is the mayor of the town, represents the government. He does not appreciate the seriousness of the problem. In fear of the people, he turns town the proposed solution saying that it could come at a considerable cost to the town.
He fails to fulfill his moral obligations to the community since he hides the truth from them. He is a traitor to the town. As a representative of the government, he fails to acknowledge the crucial role that scientific experts play in a democratic community. Since he lacked a special knowledge in science, he allowed his ruthless political views to take precedence over his moral obligations to the community.
Therefore, even though he succumbed to the wishes of the people, he cannot be given any credit because as a leader one has to stand for what is right regardless of the political consequences.
Hovstad, who is the editor of the town’s leftist newspaper, represents the media in the society. Although he wanted to publish the truth behind the problem at the Kirsten Springs, the mayor convinced him otherwise. Therefore, he concealed the truth so as not to upset his subscribers. In doing so, Hovstad attacked Dr. Stockman’s freedom of speech and self-respect, especially since the town needed the right advice from a qualified professional.
The author depicts that those who are in positions of power and influence, like the editor and the mayor, can presume what interests the majority and then tailor their services to please them. However, Hovstad was not fulfilling his moral obligation to the society. Instead of telling the people the truth, although it was a threat to the interests of the majority, he sided with the authorities in hiding the unpopular opinion.
A rich old man, Morten Kiil, who is the adoptive father of Dr. Stockmann’s wife, represents the business people in the society. He is the owner of most of the tanneries that the town doctor implicated as a source that contaminated the waters. He has agreed to assign a good deal of his wealth to the family of Dr. Stockmann upon his death. In this saga, he sees the position that Dr. Stockmann has taken as a threat that can ruin his businesses.
He fails to fulfill his moral obligation to the society by allowing his love for money to take precedence over the lives of the tourists who will be visiting the waters. The citizens of the town did not accept Dr. Stockmann’s claims. They turned against him en masse, denouncing him as a lunatic.
They allowed themselves to be deceived by their leaders, instead of acknowledging the role of scientific experts in advising them in case of a crisis. This implies that the majority of people in society are ignorant since most of them believe the politicians more than they believe the scientific experts. Therefore, since the majority usually rules in a democracy, they have the right to choose their leaders.
Mrs. Catherine Stockmann, Dr. Stockmann’s wife, is depicted as being loyal and practical. He often motivates her husband to put his family forward. However, Tom Stockmann allows his duty to his profession to take precedence over the wishes of his wife.
In our current society, the government, business people, the media, the scientific community, and the people are fulfilling their moral and ethical obligations in different ways. The government is charged with the duty of providing safety to its citizens from environmental hazards that can harm their lives; that is, it has the ethical obligation of enacting necessary measures to ensure their protection from dangers.
The business people are fulfilling their ethical obligation by selling to the consumers’ products that cannot harm their lives. In case their services are likely to endanger the lives of their customers, they have the moral obligation not to let their love for money to take precedence over the lives of the people.
The media has the ethical obligation of giving the public the correct information, which is not distorted to satisfy the interests of some people in positions of authority. In today’s world, the media is obliged to provide an avenue for unpopular opinions, even if it will threaten the interests of the majority. For example, the sexual scandal that involved President Bill Clinton received unbiased media coverage.
The scientific community is obliged to provide people with appropriate direction that can avert a crisis from taking place. Since the scientific experts have enough knowledge, they are better placed to make decisions concerning various global challenges, such as pollution, environmental degradation, and nuclear energy.
The people are obliged to trust the direction given by the scientific experts. And when there is a conflict between the politicians and the experts, they are to embrace the ideas of the latter since they seek to protect their lives.
However, it is important to note that as much as everyone is trying to fulfill his or her moral obligations, the world is in a mess because people do not want to acknowledge one another’s moral obligations. Everyone feels that he or she is right, and inevitably, rampant confusion sets in.
Our moral obligation to other people and other living things should not have any boundaries since we should strive to meet their needs without any bias. Every one of us should do his or her best in making the world a better place to live in. This cannot be achieved if we maintain an individualistic or egocentric worldview.