Our Town Study Guide

Our Town By Thornton Wilder

The Stage Manager, an entirely self-aware entity who serves several purposes throughout the play, narrates this glimpse into small-town American life in Grover's Corner, New Hampshire, around the turn of the century. The play is divided into three acts: daily life, love and marriage, and death and eternity.

In the first act, we are introduced to George Gibbs and Emily Webb, high-school students who are neighbors and frequently converse through their second-story bedroom windows. We see a lot of the elements of daily continuity in the small town (the milkman visits every morning, the church organist is constantly the butt of town gossip, etc.) Emily agrees to help George with his schoolwork. Minor characters such as Rebecca, George's curious younger sister, primarily serve to emphasis the 'daily-ness' of everyday life in the town.

In Act II, three years later, George and Emily announce that they are going to marry. Mr. Webb tells George of the marriage advice he received from his own father: treat your wife like property and never have a single care for what she needs. Mr. Webb says he did the exact opposite of what his father did, and was happy ever since. The Stage Manager steps in and rewinds time for a year to show Emily and George falling in love over ice cream sodas. Back in the present, both George and Emily admit to their parents that they're unsure if they should marry, but they regain their composure and the wedding goes of without a hitch.

Act III takes place in a cemetery. Emily has died giving birth to her second child, and the Stage Manager beings with a long soliloquy about the nature of eternity. Emily's spirit emerges from the crowd of mourners and, talking to other spirits, learns that she can re-live some parts of her life, and chooses to re-live her twelfth birthday. She realizes just how valuable every minute of life really is, and asks the Stage Manager if anyone living can truly understand that epiphany. The Stage Manager replies that perhaps poets and saints, a little, but in general, no. Emily returns to her grave, and the Stage Manager closes with another soliloquy.

Questions for Our Town Study Guide

Need more help? Read questions and answers from fellow students below. If you're question hasn't already been asked, ask it now.

Report This
+1
2
-1
1
answers
Report This
+1
0
-1
1
answers