Our Town is a Pulitzer Prize winning play written by Thornton Wilder in 1938. Our Town is a play told in three acts. It’s a very minimalistic play that uses barely any props and set pieces. The actors mime almost all of their actions and even mime some conversations. The character of the stage manager fills in for multiple roles and acts as a buffer between the audience and the acting. He acts as the play’s narrator, giving us an even deeper insight into the lives of the characters.
Our Town follows the lives of the residents of Grover’s Corners through the jovial times and through the miserable times. The play is not long enough for me to go into great detail about it, but suffice it to say it tackles, life, death, marriage, love, birth, and more. In Act I you are introduced into the daily life of the Webb and Gibbs families. Act II, is about the love and marriage of George and Emily. George and Emily are the children from the Webb and Gibbs families. They have lived next door to each other all of their lives and have fallen in love. Act II goes into detail about how they decided to get married and the nerves they were having on the day of their wedding.
Act three is about death, Emily’s to be exact. You’ve missed out on nine years of the goings on in Grover’s Corners but the stage manager fills you in on the important particulars. Emily decides to revisit a day in her life, so that she can see the people she’s left behind once more.
I LOVE this play, and I think the reason why I love it is that there is so much truth in what is said. The play as a whole is meant to show that we fill our lives with so many mundane things, that we don’t appreciate what we have till it’s too late. We don’t stop to look around and see the beauty in the people we’re sharing our lives with. In the third act, Emily says,
“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? –ever, every minute?”
This is the point that Wilder tries to drive home with the play. Wilder wants the reader to see that life can end at any time. You can be any age. It doesn’t just happen to those that are old, the young can die as well, just as suddenly. He tries to bring an appreciation to life that most people don’t understand. Emily is told that it’s better to forget the living; the memories of what you didn’t do or who you didn’t cherish while you’re alive is too much for the dead to handle. Emily responds her agreeance by saying,
“Good-by, good-by, world. Good-by, Grover’s Corners….Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking…and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths…and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.”
I read this book in high school, and also saw my high school produce it for the fall drama one year. Reading it as an adult, especially as a newlywed one has given more poignancy to what I read. Having added also to my years, I’m able to appreciate Wilder’s words more. As a high school student you’re main focuses are getting a boyfriend/girlfriend, who’s the most popular student, playing sports well, not getting a pimple, prom dates, etc. You don’t worry about spending time with your family, or cherishing the moments of your first kiss, your first love, the birthdays, that chat you had with your friend at lunch. Reading it as an adult now that has experienced love and death in a variety of ways, I can see what Wilder is saying better now. I truly appreciate this play.
I cannot speak enough about how much I recommend this play. If you’ve never read it I hope it touches you as it has touched me. If you have read it, give it another try; I bet you look at it in a whole new light.
5 out of 5 Stars