In Act III from Our Town by Thornton Wilder, how does the Stage Manager point out the universality of death?
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In Our Town by Thornton Wilder, the last act is reserved for the part of life that comes to all—Death. The graveyard is the ultimate equalizer. Whether a person is the mayor or the town drunk, everyone someday will come to rest among his ancestors. In Grover’s Corner as in all cemeteries, the tombstones indicate how much time has passed from the first grave to the last. Nine years have gone by since the Act II.
The Stage Manager takes the audience through the old part of the cemetery and comments on the dates of the first graves. These were people who dared to come to a new land and were willing to invest their new homes.
He also discusses genealogy. People pay genealogists to come to the old cemeteries and look up their relatives to see if they qualify for the Daughters of the American Revolution. To the Stage Manager, it is all right to do this…but he thinks that human beings do a lot of nonsense.
On a more serious note, [Remember that the Civil War was only about 40 years in the past] the Stage Manager notes the graves of men who fought in the Civil War. These men believed that the country should stay the United States of America, and they were willing to die for that cause.
Most cemeteries have a new section. The old section runs out of room, so a new part is begun. The Manager lists some names that have been important to the play: Mrs. Gibbs, Mr. Stimson, Mrs. Soames, and Wallace Webb are in the new section.
A place like the cemetery is filled with sadness and grief. People come to the graveyard not knowing how they will be able to go on living without their loved ones. The passing of time, summers, rainy days…then everyone is glad that their loved ones are in such a beautiful place.
The Stage Manager gives a little sermon on spirituality and dying:
People know that there is something that is eternal. It cannot necessarily be seen. It is a feeling that everyone has. The great philosophers for 5,000 years have been talking about this eternity.
“There’ something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”
Speaking as though the dead have thoughts and feelings after they die, the Stage Manager says that the dead do not stay interested in the living for very long. The dead forget about the things that they loved on earth even the people.
“They get weaned away from earth—that’s the way I put it,--weaned away.
They wait while the earthly human part goes away…then they wait for something big that is going to come. The Stage Manager says that “they are waitin’ for the eternal part in them to come out clear?”
There is nothing left when the memory of being human is gone…not even a recollection from wherever a person comes. There are many types of burial places, but when the one who is dead is left in the burial place, a part of the loved ones’ hearts are left with here in the cemetery. The Stage Manager pauses and sees the people who take care of the cemetery. They have prepared a grave for Emily Webb Gibbs…
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