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Doc Gibbs is the town doctor. He is awake at an early hour because he had to go and deliver a baby in "Polish Town." Doc Gibbs is the father of George Gibbs, who will marry the pretty girl next door, Emily Webb, the most important character in the play.
There's Doc Gibbs comin' down Main Street now, comin' back from that baby case. And here's his wife comin' downstairs to get breakfast.
Mrs. Gibbs is alive at this point, but the Stage Manager has a omniscient perspective. He tells us:
Doc Gibbs died in 1930....Mrs. Gibbs died first--long time ago, in fact.
Suddenly, JOE CROWELL, JR., eleven, starts down Main Street from the right, hurling imaginary newspapers into doorways.
The Stage Manager informs us that this eleven-year-old boy died in France in World War I. The Stage Manager creates an uncanny impression. He literally knows everything about everybody--past, present, and future. He is a supernatural character. He may be visible to the audience, but he is usually invisible to the other characters.
Finally, Howie Newsome appears. He is the milkman, and because of the putative time period, he is using a horse-drawn milk-wagon. The horse is not shown, but its presence is felt because Bessie knows the route almost as well as Howie. He tells Dr. Gibbs:
Bessie's all mixed up about the route ever since the Lockharts stopped takin' their quart of milk every day.
These are four residents of Grover's Corners--Doc Gibbs, his wife, the newspaper boy, and the milkman, who are up at dawn. Another resident who is awake is Shorty Hawkins, the local railroad station attendant, who does not appear. No doubt there are other Grover's Corner people who are also awake at this early hour. The overall effect of this part of the opening scene is to show that the day is just starting and the town is slowly coming to life. The play will end at night with "most everybody" in town asleep.
Hm. . . . Eleven o'clock in Grover's Corners.--You get a good rest, too. Good night.
Wilder uses offstage sound effects to help create the illusion that it is just about dawn. A rooster crows. A train whistle is heard, and we are told by the Stage Manager that this is the 5:45 for Boston. Shorty Hawkins is getting ready to flag it down. Grover's Corners is such an insignificant town that the train would not stop otherwise. Shorty must have a passenger going to Boston. The play is set in New Hampshire. The distance between Concord, the capital of New Hampshire, and Boston, Massachusetts is about 63 miles.
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