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Our Town by Thornton Wilder focuses on the precious moments that occur in people’s lives. This play on the everyday occurrences that all people experience won the Pulitzer Prize for Wilder. In addition, the work was considered highly experimental in its time. There was little scenery used; no property allowed for the actors; and the main character was a stage manager who spoke directly to the audience.
The Stage Manager controls the action of the play. In the first act, the action is called “Daily Life.” The Manager introduces the town, the purpose of the play, and the characters that the audience will follow in the play.
The second act would be called “Love and Marriage." The Stage Manager tells the audience that three years have gone by. The structure of this act is based on what has happened with the last thousand days.
The change of the seasons [summer and winter] has impacted the geological surroundings, along with the rain that brings down some of the dirt from the surrounding mountains. Children have been born, and other people are showing their age. New homes have been built.
Nature has provided the means for some young people to fall in love and marry. Almost everyone gets married. Most people are placed in their graves as married people.
Act II begins after the high school graduation of Emily and George. They have studied geometry, Latin, and oratory and passed at the top of their class.
It is July 7, 1904. In this era, many young people married as soon as they graduated from high school. On this day, Emily Webb and George Gibb will be joined in holy matrimony. They seem so young, yet they may be more prepared than many who jump into marriage. The morning has been rainy, and everyone is up early undergoing various emotional reactions to this most important day.
The mothers enter their respective kitchens to start the breakfast for their families. The Stage Manager points out the admirable qualities of each of the ladies:
- One cooked three meals a day for twenty years and the other for forty years
- Never had summer vacation
- Raised two children each
- Cleaned the house and washed the clothes
- Never had a collapse
The Stage Manager provides a quotation from Edgar Lee Masters from his poem "Lucinda Matlock”:
You’ve got to love life to have life, and you've got to have life to love life.
Marriage in Our Town is shown as a big step, the next to the most important moment of a person’s life. Love and companionship are prized as giving meaning to life. Yet marriage is not entered into lightly. Both young people will have those marriage jitters; however, by the time they see each other at the church, they are ready to begin their lives together.
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