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MonkeyNotes-Our Town by Thornton Wilder
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Notes

The second section of Act I begins to reveal the simple, uneventful lives of the inhabitants of a small, ordinary town. It is appropriately called "Daily Routine." The Stage Manager begins the section by describing how all the houses look alike in Grover's Corners. The action also reveals that the people act alike. The morning routine in the Gibbs' house is very much like the routine in the Webbs' house. Joe Crowell's paper route is as routine as Howie Newsome's delivery of the milk; one delivers the paper to sustain the mind, while the other delivers milk to sustain the body. Life, however, seems very ordinary and predictable. Ironically, it is the commonness of the town and its inhabitants that makes the play uncommon and important.

Birth, marriage, and death are the key events of human life in any environment. It is appropriate that in this first act, birth is mentioned several times. Doc Gibbs explains the delivery of the twin babies to Howie Newsome and then to his wife. The act also begins at dawn, the birth of a new day. The next act will be called "Love and Marriage," and the last act is entitled "Death." Death is also discussed in this section. In a flashforward, the omniscient Stage Manager reveals that Joe Crowell will be killed in France during World War I and that Mrs. Gibbs will die of pneumonia several years before her husband passes away.

Although the inhabitants of Grover's Corners seem to accept the dull routine of their lives, Mrs. Gibbs reveals that she dreams of seeing the world. She tells Mrs. Webb about how she wants to sell an antique piece of furniture and use the money to travel to Paris. Of course her dreams, like most of those in Grover's Corners, will never materialize; her husband will only visit Civil War battlefields on his vacations. Again, the dull routine and repetitious patterns are emphasized.


The sparseness of scenery and stage props contributes to the ordinariness of life in this small town. As the Stage Manager describes the places of Grover's Corners, he makes them all seem the same. The train station is like every other train station, and all the houses look alike. The actions of the characters, such as arguing about what to wear, discussing allowances, feeding the chickens, and stringing beans, are also very dull and routine. But underneath the commonplace portrayed on stage is a true human support system that should not be missed. Mothers worry about their children being prompt, but take the time to assure them that they look lovely or deserve larger allowances. Friends take the time to stop and have a conversation, as seen when Dr. Gibbs talks with Howie Newsome. Neighbors find the time to help each other with the chores and listen to each other's dreams. It may be a dull, boring town, but it is filled with caring people who take the beauty of their lives for granted.

It is significant to note the omnipresence of the Stage Manager during the play. He often interrupts the action to shed some important light on the characters or the action. At other times, he seems to interrupt for almost no reason. In this section, he stops the action to give an aside in which he states that the factory in Grover's Corners manufactures blankets.

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