An Enemy of the People: Metaphor Analysis

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The Baths

The Baths symbolize a hope of prosperity for the town and this is especially so for those who have a vested interest in their success such as shareholders and council members.

These Baths also come to represent capitalism in a more abstract sense and the pollution of the waters may be interpreted as a wider symbol of the polluting effects of capitalism. For capitalism to work, or for the Baths to be a success, the silent complicity of others is required even if this means the majority will not be able to share in the profits (as these will go to the minority, the shareholders).

Pollution

The pollution of the water is related to the symbolic effects of the Baths as both represent corruption and the corrupting effects of capitalism and power. Just as water flows, the negative influence of abusive power is seen to run through this society. The diseases that Thomas says can be borne by this infected water are seen to have a figurative parallel in the pollution of corruption as one after another many of the characters succumb to either the fear of public opinion or greed.

The Unruly Mob

When Thomas holds a meeting at Horster’s home, the influence of the group over the individual is made concrete as the group is seen to turn to a mob, which finally becomes violent. In this portrayal of the unruly mob, it is possible to see a negative view of how democracy has its failings and how the opinion of the majority is not necessarily always right. By characterizing the workings of democracy in such a way, we are invited to question how it is possible to overlook the individual at our peril.

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