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This act opens with Dr. Stockmann in his study, which is in disarray. In a despondent mood, the doctor is piling up stones on the table as 'relics.' The stones are the ones pelted at him by the citizens; he plans to save them as "heirlooms," reminders for his children. Except for his family, the doctor is isolated in the town. All the persons who were previously associated with him have rejected him; they are influenced by public opinion and afraid of standing up to the masses. The landlord has given Dr. Stockmann notice to move out, and his daughter, Petra, has lost her job in the school.
Mrs. Stockmann enters and asks him whether the idea of going abroad is a wise one. Although Dr. Stockmann is not sure about the decision, he is certain that the conditions abroad will be more liberal than the ones in the town. He is determined that his children will not grow up in a society where "half of the population is stark- mad and the other half hasn't any wits to lose."
Horster barges in to inform the doctor that he has been dismissed for his association with him. However, he is hopeful of finding a berth with some other shipping company. Next the Burgomaster calls on Dr. Stockmann to hand over the dismissal order issued by the Director of the Baths. He refers to the circular sent by the Homeowners' Association, calling upon the citizens not to employ Dr. Stockmann. He suggests that his brother admit his error, express his regrets, and then leave town for a couple of months. If he issues a written apology, the Board may consider his reinstatement as Medical Officer after his return.
Dr. Stockmann refuses to listen to his brother. He wants to remain a free person and will not wallow in filth "like a cur." The Burgomaster reminds him that Morten Kiil, who has bequeathed his wealth to Dr. Stockmann's family, can revoke his will at any time. Dr. Stockmann points out that Morten would never do that, for he is delighted to see him "fall foul of" the Burgomaster and his gang. The Burgomaster suspects that the whole affair pertaining to the baths is an intrigue concocted by Morten Kiil to gain vengeance on the leading persons of the Town Council. Dr. Stockmann is stunned at the accusation and calls his brother "the most abominable plebeian" he has ever known. The rift between the two brothers is complete.
Hovstad and Aslaksen enter as Morten Kiil leaves. They suspect that Dr. Stockmann and Morten Kiil have hatched a conspiracy to buy all shares of the baths at a low price. They suggest that the doctor should have done such a thing through someone "not so closely connected with him." They also state that they want to place the People's Messenger at the doctor's disposal, regardless of the public opinion. Again, they are thinking that the controversy will bring them readers. Dr. Stockmann flares up at the newsmen and brandishing his umbrella, he drives them out of his house.