Our Town

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Play by Thornton Wilder, produced and published in 1938, when it won a Pulitzer Prize.

The intimate history of a typical American town, Grover's Corners, N.H., is sketched during the years 1901–13. On a bare, uncurtained stage, set with a few chairs and tables, the activities of the townspeople are enacted under the visible direction of the friendly Stage Manager, who addresses the audience, describing the characters and commenting on the action, in what the author calls a “hangover from a novelist technique.” Professor Willard and Editor Webb describe the scientific and social backgrounds, and other incidental figures are Joe Crowell, the newsboy; Howie Newsome, the milkman; Simon Stimson, a frustrated creative artist, the town organist and drunkard; Constable Warren; Mr. Morgan, the druggist; Mrs. Soames, the gossip; and Joe Stoddard, the undertaker. Interest is centered in the families of Editor Webb and Dr. Gibbs. The first act, “Daily Life,” shows the common occupations of cooking, gardening, school, baseball, the church choir, and domestic concerns. The second act, “Love and Marriage,” deals with the courtship and wedding of George Gibbs and Emily Webb. “Death,” the third act, presents the funeral of Emily, who has died in childbirth. The buried dead become articulate, expressing the quiet and patience resulting from a view of the world outside of time, and their knowledge of “something way down deep that's eternal about every human being.” Finally aware of the mysterious beauty and terror of life, they embody the author's aim “to present illustrations of harmony and of law … affirmations about mankind and his ends.”

Subjects: Literature.

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Thornton Wilder (1897—1975) American novelist and dramatist

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