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Comparing an Enemy of the People and Glengarry Glen Ross Essay


“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 (75). “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.

“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.


“An enemy of the people” was set in one scene in a coastal town in Norway. The town has invested huge sums of money in development of baths. The baths turn to be a big source of local pride. However, this project led by Dr Stockman and his brother, Peter Stockman, the mayor of the town, turns disastrous when Dr Stockman discovers that the water is been contaminated by waste products from the town’s tannery.

This is a cause of diseases to the tourists. When Dr Stockman reports the matter to the relevant authority, they seem less concerned. The people in the town seen how effective the baths in benefiting them give a deaf ear to Dr Stockman’s claims and he even ends up been denounced as the enemy of the people. All the drama in this play revolves around Dr Stockman who does the right thing and speaks the truth in concern of the intolerances in the society (Ibsen 32).

“Glengarry Glen Ross” by David Mamet is written into acts. In act one there are three scenes, which are two person scenes. This is set in a Chinese restaurant in Chicago where we see how the principal characters are in extreme pressure to sell estates ands that to be successful in this they ought to get good sells that are under control of the manager, Williamson.

After investigation, Levene, one of the sales representatives, is said to be the thief. With these two different scenarios, we can see how drama has gone a step forward. In 1882, the play by Ibsen was only in one scene but after 100 years, it is in different acts each having its own scenes as it is in Mamet’s play. Therefore, play writing styles have changed over the years and become complex with many scenes in the plays (Kane 45).

In Ibsen’s play of 1882, the language used is comic through the spokesperson, Dr Stockman mouth. Dr Stockman reports the matter about contamination of the baths but his idea though true grows stale and the truth dies when other people join in rebuking his opinions and observations. In Mamet’s play of 1982, dialogue is used in the first three scenes.

Through dialogue, we get to know the key players in this business and the objectives of each. In scene two, it is by dialogue that we see how management has put pressure on Dave Moss and George Aaronow for them to succeed and they are not happy, as they ought to revenge by stealing all the Glengarry leads and sell them. In scene three, Ricky Roma gives a monologue to James Lingk (Ibsen 44).

In other plays like “The merchant of Venice” by shake spear, monologue has also been used where one is speaking to him/herself. This happens at the beginning of the play where Antonio is conversing alone. Antonio’s monologue is a way of introducing the matter in the play. Drama has changed because every dialogue or monologue used in a play is mostly for relaying some additional information that is deeply put.

Like in Mamet’s play, the dialogue as it has been has some information that was opted to be brought out (Shakespeare 12). Most of the plays written in 1880s where written in local languages. This was very unfair as it cropped boundaries within which the play would be read. For example, this play” An enemy of the people” by Ibsen was first written in Norwegian as En folkefiende Ibsen.

This heading was a mixture of Danish language and Norwegian dialects. This meant that only the people in Norway could read the play. In addition, resourceful films were not to be got easily due to the limits that were put and it meaned that one who never knew the topic language had to read in between the lines so that he/she could understand the heading.

In “The merchant of Venice” shake spear also uses complex English that even needs interpretation some terms he uses been explained their meanings. Shakes pear uses the old English where he uses some words like “thy” to mean “the” and therefore readers ought to read between the lines (Ibsen 22).

Unlike this situation, English began been used as the best writing language that could be read in the entire world. This is foreseen 100 years later in Mamet’s play “Glengarry Glen Ross” where he uses pure and simple English. Also in another play, “Shreds of tenderness” by John Ruganda is another recent play that uses simple and comprehensive language.

Therefore, drama has changed and it is towards a positive direction (Saucer & Sauer 29). In an enemy of the people, symbolism has been used. The small town appears wholesome and healthful. However, it contains unseen contaminants.

Just like the water that was been contaminated by waste products and is unhealthy to the tourists, mayor Stockman and his fellow followers want to behave like upright but are really corrupt at heart. Dr Stockman reports the matter about the contamination of the water and he says, “The whole bath establishment is a white, poisoned sepulcher, I tell you-the gravest possible danger to the public health!” In fact, the spa water goes a test that reveals that it is polluted.

Mayor Stockman and his fellow followers are also a symbol of the evil in the society. Dr Stockman symbolizes the light of the society and he is used to show how the society rebukes positive change and each individual wants only his/her affairs only looked into (Ibsen 26).

One of themes in “An enemy of the people” by Henrik Ibsen that is evident is that the truth of any matter should not be kept underground or altered even if the majority differs with the reality. Dr Stockman is against them all and he is ready to die hard saying the truth. Mayor Stockman and his huge group of followers rebuke the truth that the water is been contaminated by waste products from the tannery.

They rebuke the truth for they want to continue benefiting from the tourists and they know when renovations in the water system begins they will have no benefits. Dr Stockman represents the people in the society who are advocating for positive change and have no idea of hiding the truth.

This comes occasionally in the society where the people know the truth about something and the dangers of it but give no concern at all for they only want own benefits without looking at the negative side of the matter in hand. Dr Stockman is used to show how one should stand with the truth without minding of any external pressure (Ibsen 30).

In “Glengarry Glen Ross” by David Mamet, a theme of crime is brought out in a very tragic way. Levene who has been unable to replace his odd tactics of working with new ones becomes financially unstable. He has his daughter been sick and he needs quick cash. Later it is discovered that he stole. Levene is used to show the crimes that are in the society like robbery without violence (Kane 27).

The recent plays have been analyzing themes that are very educative to the society. Some like “Ghosts” a play by Henrik Ibsen they did not seem educative to the society. This play has a theme of love that is not practical. It becomes difficult for the play to be acted as it has some parts that ought to be censored. Unlike this play, “The merchant of Venice” by shakes pear has a good theme of love.

Love comes out perfectly as Bassanio is ready to struggle to his best to woe Portia. There is competition in wooing Portia and Bassanio ends up lending money that he uses to go and woe the beautiful woman. Due to love, Antonio lends money for Bassanio from the rich merchant, Shylock (Shakespeare 15).

In “An enemy of the people” by Henrik Ibsen, the characters do not build each other strongly to bring out the real meaning of the topic. Dr Stockman as the main character goes contrary to the wishes of all the people in the small town. This character is standing for the truth but it sounds unusual to have no other character supporting him.

It would be difficult for Mayor Stockman to get support from all the characters. In this, Dr Stockman is not build up perfectly having total denial from the society and yet he is advocating for the reality that will see the people benefiting less from the tourists (Ibsen 32).

In “Glengarry Glen Ross” by David Mamet, the characters build up each other perfectly and each character is playing a key role towards the heading of the play. Shelly Levene finding himself using odd fashioned tactics in the work, realizes that he may end up been out of the job and it means he will be very unstable financially. To curb these misfortunes, which seem to be awaiting him, he uses Moss and they plan and steal the premium lead sales from the office.

Moss helps build up of Levene’s character. Baylen, a police detective investigates the matter the following day after finding out the office has been ransacked. He conducts investigation going by individual worker as they follow each other. He concludes by saying that it could be Levene. The characters in the play build each other strongly and it makes the play lively and real in acting. Character developed has that advanced looking at the 100 years difference in the books (Saucer and Sauer 36).

Looking at another theme in “An enemy of the people” is on the argument that the water though contaminated appears to be very fresh. Only diseases reveal the monster, poison, in the water. Just like the water, the people in the small town seem to be attractive and perfect from outside look but in the real sense, they are repulsive from inside.

They look too friendly to the tourists but all this is just externally and yet from inside they do not care about the health of the tourists and all they see are the benefits from the tourists. This reality is of what happens in the society in which one has no care of the other but concentrates on his/her success (Ibsen 45).

In another play “Our Town” by Thorton Wilder, the aspects of human existence are viewed basing on how they people in the society interact. It also reveals how people should use others for their success but not in e way of bringing any harm to them. In this Wilder deeply explores childhood, marriage, death and afterlife.

Looking at another play, “Death of a Salesperson” by Arthur Miller, is a tragedy since it depicts the way Willy Loman, the salesperson, dies and this all happens to benefit others. Despite Willy Loman experiencing the tragedy the worst happens to her wife, Linda Loman Problems in the society are never to end and that is, what most of the plays are now based on (Saucer and Sauer 29)?

With the above reviews of plays, it is clear that plays are becoming more realistic and they can be acted easily with no obligation. The change is seen by looking at the play “Ghosts” by Henrik Ibsen in 1881, which was rejected by people. The play on love affairs was thought not worthy to be acted to the public with some diseases like syphilis had been transmitted.

Therefore, it is clear that acting now better and can be done in public. For example “Glengarry glen Ross” by David Mamet has been ranked as one of the best films (Kane 47). As it is in, “An Enemy of the People” by Ibsen, it does not matter what happens as long as you stand with the right. It does not matter what they say or do but you just remain in your stand.

Mayor Stockman frowns on his brothers will and says, “the individual ought undoubtedly to acquiesce in subordinating himself to the community-or, to speak more accurately, to the authorities who have the care of the community’s welfare.” This later causes a clash between the two. Dr Stockman is not bothered at all by the negative attitudes of the people toward his truth.

He remains strong like an electric post and that is what is ought to be done (Kane 67).Comparing the two plays by Ibsen and Mamet, it is clear that themes have new take. In Mamet’s play, the themes like crime are brought out in a direct manner that can be understood without much struggle as compared to Ibsen’s play whose themes are not easy to analyze. In all the plays, money has been viewed as the root of evil. Drama is therefore changing over years (Ibsen 90).


Drama began early and it has taken a step forward and become better. In Ibsen’s play “An enemy of the people”, acting was a bit complicated and looking at this prior play, which had been rejected by the society. Acting has changed and become better as it is viewed in Mamet’s play, “Glengarry Glen Ross” of 1982.

The themes in Ibsen’s play where not brought out quit well but in Mamet’s play of 1982, themes are analyzed perfectly. New styles have also evolved over the years. The early plays were written with some local words used even as the topic of the play but now they are written in good and simple English.

Works cited

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.

Saucer, David & Sauer Janice. David Mamet: a research and production sourcebook. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003.

Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. United Kingdom: EDCON Publishing Group, 2008

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"Comparing an Enemy of the People and Glengarry Glen Ross." IvyPanda, 26 Dec. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/comparing-an-enemy-of-the-people-and-glengarry-glen-ross/.

1. IvyPanda. "Comparing an Enemy of the People and Glengarry Glen Ross." December 26, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/comparing-an-enemy-of-the-people-and-glengarry-glen-ross/.


IvyPanda. "Comparing an Enemy of the People and Glengarry Glen Ross." December 26, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/comparing-an-enemy-of-the-people-and-glengarry-glen-ross/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Comparing an Enemy of the People and Glengarry Glen Ross." December 26, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/comparing-an-enemy-of-the-people-and-glengarry-glen-ross/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Comparing an Enemy of the People and Glengarry Glen Ross'. 26 December.

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