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MonkeyNotes-Our Town by Thornton Wilder
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Notes

More information about the town is disseminated via the pedagogical account of the town's history by Prof. Willard and is continued in a similar strain by Editor Webb, who provides the statistical data about the composition of the town along religious, social, and political lines. The Stage Manager then opens the floor to the audience to ask questions of Mr. Webb. The questions that are posed are significant and pointed. Editor Webb's answers point out the "ordinariness" of the town. He shows that Grover's Corners is a sheltered environment, where people are quite oblivious to "social injustice and industrial inequality" amid their "limited culture."

More is learned about George and Emily. He is an avid baseball player who struggles with his schoolwork. She is an intelligent, dreamy teenager, who romanticizes the moonlight and worries about her appearance. During this section, the relationship between the two of them is developed and becomes more important in the next act. It is obvious that the two teenagers are attracted to one another. Emily is comfortable enough with George to scold him about spending too much time playing baseball, to the point of ignoring friends and family. George is already comfortable enough with her to reveal his dream of becoming a farmer; he also says that he will never let baseball come before her. The foundation has been clearly set for the "two by two" arrangement mentioned in Act II, entitled "Marriage."

The Stage Manager has the ingenious idea of inserting a copy of Our Town in the cornerstone of the new bank building. The idea reflects Wilder's concern about making people aware of the wonder of their ordinary lives. The Stage Manager seems to understand this concept. He is not concerned about the statistical or superficial information about Grover's Corners. What he wants to preserve for posterity is a vision of how the people lived. He wants future generation to know "the way we are in our growing up and in our marrying and in our living and in our dying." He feels that the play captures these things.


According to Wilder, "real life" is the insignificant things that make up a day, combined with the significant events like growing up, marrying, and dying. Together, these events are "the ties that bind," as reflected in the hymn being sung in the background. To illustrate the "realness" of life in Grover's Corners, Wilder presents a series of small, unconnected vignettes of small town living. In one scene, Emily and George are applying themselves to schoolwork, with George calling the intelligent student for help with his algebra. In another scene, a dreamy Emily asks her mother to give her reassurance that she is an attractive teenager. Doc Gibbs is seen having an earnest conversation with George about his allowance and responsibility. In another scene, the church choir is practicing under the direction of an inebriated Stimson. Then on the way home, the choir women gossip about Stimson's drinking problem and wondering when the minister, Dr. Ferguson, will do something about it. He seems to be the only character in the play who does not fit into the village-scheme-of-things.

The first act is justifiably called "Daily Life." It begins in section one just before dawn and covers the ordinary, humdrum activities of the day, drawing to a close on the same night. The audience sees the milkman delivering milk, the constable patrolling the streets, the newsboy delivering the paper, the mothers preparing breakfast and getting their children off to school, the fathers coming home from work, the children doing their schoolwork, the friends talking while helping each other with their chores. The action is truly ordinary and, therefore, recognizable and universal. In spite of the general contentment with small town existence, some of the characters do have a dream. George wants to escape Grover's Corners and become a farmer; Emily romanticizes the moonlight and dreams of falling in love; Mrs. Gibbs dreams of going to Paris, even though she accepts it will never materialize.

As the first act comes to an end, the town is darkened, for it is bedtime. George and his sister, Rebecca, attempt to have a conversation, the Stage Manager abruptly interrupts and cuts them short. He announces

that it is the end of the first act. His abrupt intrusion accomplishes two things: 1) the audience is brought back to the fact that this play is not traditional drama, but is controlled and narrated by the Stage Manager; and 2) it is a reminder to the audience that it is "theater," not real life, that they are watching.

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