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What in Act One has prepared us for the unusual treatment of time in Act Two of Our Town?

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acastig | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted November 7, 2012 at 1:45 AM via web

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What in Act One has prepared us for the unusual treatment of time in Act Two of Our Town?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 7, 2012 at 6:36 AM (Answer #1)

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In a review of Thornton Wilder's Our Town, one critic writes,

This is less the portrait of a town than the sublimation of the commonplace; and in contrast with the universe that silently swims around it, it is brimming over with compassion.

The microcosm of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, is depicted in its quotidian struggles and routines in Act One as the Stage Manager describes the town and illuminates the events in a day with the Gibbs family and others.  At one point, the Stage Manager tells the audience,

There are some things we've got to explore about this town....We're going to look back on it from the future.

Then, he describes certain people and their lives, the religious environment, and the times, concluding,

So, friends, this is the way we were in our growing up and in our marrying and in our doctoring and in our living and in our dying.

And, then, the Stage Manager returns to the present time. After Act One is finished, Act Two begins three years later to July of 1904, a month in which young people get married. Since the daily life is similar to that in the first act, Wilder strips his play of only the essential elements, and since this section is called "Love and Marriage," the Stage Manager focuses briefly on the courtship and the wedding day of Frank Gibbs and Emily Webb as they run through the gamut of emotions.

Wilder's intention is to portray Grover's Corner as a slice of human life, with its personal struggles that extend beyond the quotidian to the universal truths and struggles of life. So, he trims his play of unessential details.


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