Analyze two central ideas that are the themes of "Our Town". What is the meaning or message of "Our Town"? How does the author develop each theme? Discuss one "how" technique that develops these...

Analyze two central ideas that are the themes of "Our Town". What is the meaning or message of "Our Town"? How does the author develop each theme? Discuss one "how" technique that develops these themes through the course of the play. In your conclusion, discuss why these themes are relevant to modern readers, even though they play is over seventy years old.

1 Answer | Add Yours

ms-charleston-yawp's profile pic

Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Although Our Town can be shown to have a lot more than just "two central ideas," that's a good place to start.  First, not to sound so much like Disney's The Lion King, but probably the main (and most important theme) in Our Town is "the circle of life."  This life circle is universal and is experienced by everyone.  Even though it sounds like such a simple concept, it actually has many layers.  Our Town is a brilliant play to discuss these layers of the life cycle of humans.

The setting is the very first real example.  Wilder purposefully makes an incredibly plain set with no real props or details.  Why does Wilder do this?  In this way, the watcher (or the reader) can place himself/herself into that general setting of Grover's Corners.  [It's the same reason why Meyers made the character of Bella in Twilight have very little real personality.  Meyers wanted all females to fit in that character in order to fall in love with the hero:  Edward.]  Further, the play is called "Our Town" and is supposed to representative of ANYONE'S town.  Note the following quote by the stage manager:

Our Town is concerned with the great and continuing cycle of life; out of life comes death and from death comes life. This cycle is man's closest understanding of eternity, his finest artistic expression of what he senses to be a mission and a purpose.

 Note how specifically the "cycle of life" is mentioned.  Even marriage is considered one of the "universal" happenings of this life cycle.  Only "once in a thousand times it's interesting."

This brings me to the second, somehow interior, theme to discuss here:  love and marriage.  Why do I consider this to be an interior theme?  It is found within the circle of life, simple as that.  Marriage, as stated above, is simply one of those events that happens in many lives.  This is especially apparent in Act II, where love and marriage becomes the theme.  We could go into the different types of live here.  For example, in Act I, it is love in the family that is the theme, and in Act III the selfless "agape" type love is the theme.  The marital love of Act II counters these two types of love. 
The major characters all love one another, and throughout the play the audience is given examples of different types of love. In Act One, family love and friendship predominate. Parents and children love each other, and neighbors love one another as well. In Act Two, romantic love blossoms into marriage. In Act Three, spiritual, selfless love, the love that expects nothing in return, is shown.
Even if we took the general term of "love," that is still an emotion found within the grand scheme of the circle of life.  In regards to the last part of your question, THIS is the reason why this play still appeals to the people of today.  The circle of life still goes on.  People still fall in love with one another.  These are timeless themes.  What is interesting to note in regards to modern readers is how the "once in a thousand times it's interesting" quotation rings true today.  Although many marriages are usual, now it is only half that don't end in divorce.  There are same-sex unions and unions of more than two people.  These days, love is OFTEN interesting!
Sources:

We’ve answered 318,912 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question