Which word best describes the wedding scene of Act II of Our Town?
"Sentiment" is genuine feeling; "sentimentality" is false and exaggerated feeling.
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Of the two words given, for this reader, at least, sentimentality better describes the wedding scene of Act Two of Thornton Wilder's Our Town. In fact, there is even a maudlin tone to this scene as Wilder appeals to the audiences' own nostalgia, reminisces, regrets, tears, and joy regarding their weddings as the parents recall youthful feelings,
MRS. GIBBS Oh, you know: I thought of all those times we went through in the first years when George and Rebecca were babies....It's wonderful how one forgets one's trouble, like that--Yes, Frank, go upstairs and tell him....It's worth it.
Then, there is the tearful older woman who sits in the pew and turns to her neighbors saying the trite words she has probably used at all the other weddings she has attended,
MRS. SOAMES Perfectly lovely wedding! Loveliest wedding I ever saw....Doesn't she make a lovely bride?....Don't know why it is, but I always cry....
To increase the maudlin sentimentality of this wedding scene, Mrs. Soames closes the scene with her banalities, concluding, "The important thing is to be happy."
On the other hand, there are other readers who find the scenes such as that of the wedding as those of nostalgic sentiment, contending, as does one critic, "It is not at all a narrowing sentimentality." For this man who is reminded of his hometown in Connecticut, Wilder evokes in this reader something he knows, and so, this reader "adapts his memory to the text with genuine sentiment."
Ultimately, then, it seems that the interpretation of the reader determines the term of judgment upon the wedding scene of Act Two.
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