Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Early one morning in 1901, Dr. Gibbs returns to his home in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. He has just been across the tracks to Polish Town to deliver Mrs. Goruslowski’s twins. On the street he meets Joe Crowell, the morning paperboy, and Howie Newsome, the milkman. The day’s work is beginning in Grover’s Corners. Mrs. Gibbs has breakfast ready when her husband arrives, and she calls the children, George and Rebecca, to the table. After breakfast the children leave for school in the company of the Webb children, Wally and Emily, who are neighbors.
After the children leave, Mrs. Gibbs steps out to feed her chickens. Seeing Mrs. Webb stringing beans in her back yard, she crosses over to talk with her. Mrs. Gibbs has been offered $350 for some antique furniture; she will sell the furniture, she decides, if she can get Dr. Gibbs to take a vacation with her. Dr. Gibbs has no wish to take a vacation, however; if he can visit the Civil War battlegrounds every other year, he is satisfied.
The warm day passes, and the children return home from school. Emily Webb walks home alone, pretending she is a great lady. George Gibbs, on his way to play baseball, stops to talk to Emily and tells her how much he admires her success at school. He cannot, he insists, imagine how anyone could spend so much time over homework as she does. Flattered, Emily promises to help George with his algebra. He says that he does not really need school work, because he...
(The entire section is 1111 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
In the drama Our Town, Wilder would find the fullest expression of his humanistic convictions, pouring all of his genius into it. The play, which opened on Broadway on February 4, 1938, reaffirmed his deep-seated belief that eternal human truths can be observed in American life. Today, the play is regarded as an American classic. It was a different matter, however, in the beginning.
The play had a rocky out-of-town reception by the critics before opening in New York City, but thanks to the strong support of doyen Brooks Atkinson, it caught on with the public and ran for 336 performances. It was made into a film in 1940, which, despite a serious change in plot structure, was almost as popular as the stage presentation. Even though denied the prestigious New York Drama Critics Circle Award, the play did garner a second Pulitzer Prize for Wilder.
Wilder believed that he could achieve in drama what he failed to do in the novel. He opens Our Town simply: “No curtain. No scenery.” He soon introduces the people of Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire, on specific days during the period from 1901 to 1913. The almost nonexistent plot revolves around two neighboring households—the Webbs and the Gibbses. Both families, eventually united by marriage, are unremarkable, and nothing very special happens to them or the other characters.
What makes Our Town unique is the character of the Stage Manager, who narrates the...
(The entire section is 704 words.)
Act One: Daily Life
The title for Act One is' "Daily Life," the Stage Manager tells the audience. Our Town begins at daybreak in Grover's Comers, New Hampshire, in the year 1901. The Stage Manager points out some of the geographical features of the town and indicates the houses of the two families who provide much of the action of the play, the Webb and Gibbs families. Dr. Gibbs is returning home from delivering twins, Joe Crowell delivers the morning newspaper, and Howie Newsome makes his rounds delivering milk.
The children of the two central families (Emily and Wally Webb and George and Rebecca Gibbs) appear for breakfast in their houses and get themselves ready for school. After the Doctor has retired for a nap and the children are on their way to school, Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Webb stop for some gossip while they string beans. The Stage Manager interrupts the women and calls on Professor Willard for a scientific report on Grover's Corners and on Editor Webb for a social and political report. As Editor Webb leaves, children return home from school and Emily promises to help George with his homework. The Stage Manager returns with brief biographies of Joe Crowell and Howie Newsome.
Evening falls on Grover's Corners and the Congregational Church choir, under the direction of Simon Stimson, begins its practice. George and Emily discuss Algebra. Dr. Gibbs and George have a "serious" talk about allowances and responsibility....
(The entire section is 815 words.)