Stack of books

Student Readers' Guide

Created by IU South Bend students Amanda Fack, Amanda Groendyke, and Shelley McCann, and Schurz Library Interns Carl R. Buchanon II, Chanel Richards, and Michelle Richey.

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  1. Why are the Baths important?
  2. What was the the nature of the argument between Peter and Thomas about the baths?
  3. Why is it that Peter is never satisfied with whatever his brother does?
  4. Was Mrs. Stockman flirting with Peter Stockman in the beginning of the play?
  5. Discuss the friction between the brothers and how it relates to the situation with the baths.
  6. What do you think about the fact that the newspapermen’s opinions swayed so easily around authority?
  7. Did Peter Stockman appear jealous or pleased with his brother writing for the People’s Messenger?
  8. Was it sarcasm when Peter Stockman said Dr. Stockman was a prolific writer?
  9. Was Dr. Stockman boastful about his successful “discovery?
  10. Because one of the leading town officials was his brother – did Dr. Stockman “owe” his brother the courtesy of warning him about the conditions of the Baths water?
  11. Should the report have been initially treated with confidentiality and Dr. Stockman follow official chain of command to notify the town leaders and ultimately the people?
  12. Was there a rivalry between the Stockman brothers?
  13. Why won’t the townspeople let the drunk man come and vote?
  14. Why doesn’t Mr. Kil believe the Dr. on the issue of the baths?
  15. Did Petra really mean that she told “lies” when teaching the children or merely that she did not agree with policies or politics of the position?
  16. Considering the time period in which the play takes place – was Petra disrespectful of her elders in her support of her father? Did this benefit anyone?
  17. As Dr. Stockman was “sharing” his discovery with Hovstad and Billing – did any of them understand the seriousness of the water issues?
  18. Discuss the assembly scene—why is it so hard for the community to listen or to consider the doctor’s opinions? Why were they resistant to change?
  19. Did Dr. Stockman understand the implications that the Baths being contaminated would have on the visitors of townspeople?
  20. Why does Dr. Stockman give up everything instead of doing as his brother and the others want?
  21. Why does Morten Kiil do what he does? Is it just greed?
  22. Based on Morten Kiil’s buying Bath stock – was he really crazy – or did he believe he was helping?
  23. Think about Askalen, especially how he is always thinking of moderation, discuss whether this “moderation” is good or bad.
  24. Discuss the use of humor in the play, especially in Act 4.
  25. Why wasn’t Kiil upset about the fact that it was his tannery that caused the pollution?
  26. Why did the town not think of water pollution when planning the baths?
  27. How does the town’s scientific understanding at the time (19th century) affect their opinion of what the doctor is telling them?
  28. Why didn’t he just bring the scientist from the college to back up his claim?
  29. Discuss the levels of bureacracy and the hierarchy of the townmembers in the play.
  30. How are Dr. Stockman’s rights as an individual sacrificed to the rights of the community?
  31. Discuss Ibsen’s commentary on democracy and politics.
  32. Was Dr. Stockman wrong to believe that the town would support him in his discovery and that he really deserved a banquet in his honor?
  33. Does Dr. Stockman continue in his fight to clean-up the Baths because it is the right thing to do or to go against the wishes of his brother and the threats made against him?
  34. Was Dr. Stockman harsh in his language in his report when he said that the visitors were being poisoned?
  35. Why are the townspeople trying to hide the truth about the baths?
  36. Is it possible to clean-up the Baths and for the town to recover?
  37. Laws we have in place today are intended to protect the public – what if the cost is a high as clean-up to the Baths would have been? Where would the money come from? How would the town survive in the meantime?
  38. Is it right to expect the government to take care of the people when the government did not cause the problem?
  39. Why aren’t the townspeople sick?
  40. Should additional testing have been conducted to find out where the contamination occurred?
  41. Should the tanner owners (Morten Kiil included) be held responsible for the contamination?
  42. Are there any similiarities between the play and modern times?
  43. Are there any local issues that would compare to the situation?
  44. Think about the beginning of act four, specifically the citizens’ discussions—how does this reflect on how they get their information?
  45. Why do people not follow their conscience (the follow the crowd mentality)?
  46. Discuss the meeting and how the townspeople set it up so that the doctor could not say what he came to say.
  47. What was the drunk guy at the assemby’s purpose?
  48. What do you think of the townspeople’s vote on whether the doctor is “an enemy of the people?”
  49. Discuss the community’s pride in the ancient heritage and ways.
  50. Think about Dr. Stockman’s monologue in act four which begins, “Yes, that is part of my new discovery too….” and relate that to the question above.
  51. Think on Dr. Stockman’s quote, “I’m chief authority of town now?” what are his motives for exposing the baths?
  52. What about supporting the town while the Baths were not available to the visitors?
  53. Would the town ever recover from the bad publicity?
  54. Did Dr. Stockman choose the safety of the unknown visitors over the present safety of his family?
  55. Did Peter Stockman try to apologize to his brother after the town meeting?
  56. Who are the authority figures in the play? Are they corrupt?
  57. Is the way the authority figures in this play are viewed the way we view authority figures today (whether fair or not) or is Dr. Stockman’s view of authority a minority view?
  58. Why do Askalen and Hovstad argue so much?
  59. Why do Askalen, Hovstad, and Billing turn against Dr. Stockman?
  60. Why is Askalen so creepy?
  61. Discuss the confrontation at the printing press.
  62. Discuss issues of class in this play.
  63. What is Katherine’s role in the play?
  64. Discuss Katherine’s relationship to the doctor. Does he respect her? How does their relationship tie into gender roles of the time?
  65. Mrs. Stockman appeared to understand the implications of going against Peter Stockman in regard to the Baths issue. Was there anything she could have done to get Dr. Stockman to behave differently?
  66. Would a wife today – sit back and let her husband do that damage to the family? Is it wrong to think Mrs. Stockman played a role in the situation?
  67. Discuss Petra. Why doesn’t the doctor realize she is the most likely to carry out his work?
  68. Are the female characters in the play fully rounded?
  69. How did Dr. Stockman defend himself to the townspeople? If you were in his place, what would you have done?
  70. Does Dr. Stockman’s faith in science make it harder for him to communicate with the townspeople?
  71. How does the situation in the book relate to today?
  72. Does Dr. Stockman’s willingness for confrontation hurt his case against the baths?
  73. Is there anyway Dr. Stockman could have convinced the townspeople of the threat?
  74. Was Peter Stockman’s suggestion to raise a municipal loan to pay for the expense of the Baths a silent “threat” to keep the town people quiet and on his side?
  75. Did Peter Stockman own his brother support for trying to protect the town – or did his personal feelings about how responsible his brother has been in the past impact his feelings on this issue?
  76. Discuss where Dr. Stockman is named “an enemy of the people” –is the location important?
  77. Were the threats made against Dr. Stockman a form of censorship?
  78. Is Dr. Stockman the hero of the play? Why or why not?
  79. What is the relationship between the brothers Stockman?
  80. Discuss Captain Horster. What is his role in this play? What is his viewpoint?
  81. Was it wrong that the Captain lost his job for supporting Dr. Stockman?
  82. Or that the Stockman family was evicted from their home? And Petra lost her job?
  83. Discuss the landlord and Petra’s employer—people who “do not dare” go against the community.
  84. Discuss Dr. Stockman. How do you think things ended for him?
  85. What do you make of Dr. Stockman’s last quote: “that the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.”

Last Reviewed: 03/2014