Study Guide

Our Town

by Thornton Wilder

Our Town Themes

Themes

Cycle of Life
Our Town begins at daybreak with the birth of twins in a Polish town and ends at night with the death of Emily Webb Gibbs in childbirth. As one life ends, another begins. Throughout the play, Wilder (through the Stage Manager—a role Wilder himself once played) directs the attention of the audience to the repetition of the cycle of life. In his opening monologue, he points out that the names on tombstones in the graveyard that date back to the 1600s are "the same names that are around here now." As Act Two opens, the Stage Manager talks about the sun having "come up over a thousand times," the growing up and the slowing down of some of the town's residents, and the millions of gallons of water [that have gone] by the mill.'' His comments about marriage are particularly interesting:

I've married over two hundred couples in my day Do I believe in it? I don't know. M ... marries N . . millions of them. The cottage, the g-cart, the Sunday-afternoon drives in the Ford, the first rheumatism, the grandchildren, the second rheumatism, the deathbed, the reading of the will,... Once in a thousand times it's interesting.

Meaning of Life
Thornton Wilder is often considered to be a religious writer and Our Town is often considered to be a religious play. Yet, there is little mention of heaven or God or any of those subjects often thought of as being religious. The Stage...

(The entire section is 443 words.)