Our Town Analysis


Our Town is a play that takes place near the turn of the century in the small rural town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. The playwright, Thornton Wilder is trying to convey the importance of the little, often unnoticed things in life. Throughout the first two acts he builds a scenario, which allows the third act to show that we as humans often run through life oblivious to what is actually happening. Wilder attempts to show life as something that we take for granted. We do not realize the true value of living until we are dead and gone. The through-line of the action seems to be attention to the details of life. Wilder builds up a plot that pays attention to great details of living.
In the first act when Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Webb are stringing beans and passing the time, the reader continues on, not thinking that importance lies in the scene. As the play comes to an end, the reason for that scene becomes evident: the most trivial occurrence can be the most meaningful moment. We as humans, however, do not realize the greatness of these little points until it is too late.
Near the end of the story, the deceased townspeople are stationed on chairs downstage, to imitate graves. They are still able to talk, yet only in a lackadaisical tone. They provide the audience, at the end, with a sense of guilt or loss. The fact that the people of Grover’s Corners did not realize the importance of life until it was gone, makes the audience feel as if they should be getting more out of their lives. Wilder so precisely portrays the idea, that the audience is left wondering if they too, like the people of Grover’s Corners, are not living life to the fullest. The play makes you think, whether for a split moment or a long time, about the idea of being aware while going about even the most menial of tasks.
While at the funeral, the living members of the cast all have umbrellas above their heads. The dead members sit in chairs imitating graves, and are rained upon. The symbolism represented by the umbrellas could be that the living are sheltered from the light of reality and importance. Only when you are dead do you notice that there was more to it, and the umbrella that you held while it was raining is taken away, allowing you to be opened up to a whole new light of realization.
In the scene just before the wedding, George tries to see his bride-to-be. The Webb’s explain to him the superstition behind not allowing the groom to see his bride until she walks down the isle. The action of this scene is anxiety. George wants to see Emily before the big event and is expressing a great desire to do so. The parents are intent on not allowing George to see their daughter. Mrs. Webb is also understandably worried about loosing a daughter to marriage. Emily is upstairs having reservations about the whole ordeal. Mr. Webb brings the two of them together before the wedding, breaking the superstition, and explains to them that they were meant to be together. He has George tell his bride that he will do the best he can to take care of her. Throughout the whole scene the reader can feel the tension and nervousness-anxiety that Wilder wants to portray.
There are several subordinate actions that support the overall action of attention to detail, anxiety is just one of them. Some of these actions are: nervousness, sorrow, pain, happiness, true love, and hopelessness. The nervousness is evident during the wedding, as well as when Emily returns to visit her twelfth birthday after her death. Sorrow and pain are felt during the funeral, and at other times in the graveyard. Happiness is felt at the soda shop when Emily and George first come to realize that they are meant for each other. There are so many underlying actions that support the through-line. Every action in Our Town seems to play an important role of the discovery of new characters, new feelings, and new insights.

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