Discuss the universal quality of the play with special emphasis on the envelop's address at the end of Act I in Our Town by Thornton Wilder

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What a delightful classic play about American life back in the 1930s!

Our Town by Thornton Wilder portrays the normal, day-to-day lives of average people. In the scenes of the drama, all of life's memorable events transpire.  These are the events that comprise a human life. They are the facets of life  which people take for granted. How easy it is to  forget that once something happens it is over and gone forever.  As people get older, these small slices of life become vastly more important. 

Each act of the play takes an important aspect of life: the first act, "Daily Life"; the second act,"Live and Marriage" and the third act, "Death and Grief." Although the stage manager tells the audience that the play takes place in Grover's Corners, the town could be anywhere in the United States.  The families are meant to be typical with everyday occurrences both good and bad that happen in their lives.

The author's intent was to have the play have a universal quality, Using a unique approach to the set and propertities for the actors, the audience is forced to use their imaginations to supply the items needed on the set.  In addition, the characters' words become more important; through them, the images and events come to life.

Wilder's idea implied that every town in America has the same kind of characters: from the doctor's family to the town drunk.  Every person goes through his daily routine whether it be Monday morning or Thursday night choir practice.  Each day is made up trivialities that do not seem important, but in total, these moments are a person's life. As the Stage Manager controls the segments of the day, he brings the audience up to date:

Now, we'll go back to the town. It's early afternoon. All 2,642 have had their dinners and all the dishes have been washed. There's an early-afternoon calm in our town…a buzzin' and a hummin' from the school buildings……the horses dozing at the hitching posts. You all remember what it's like. Doc Gibbs is in his office, tapping people and making them say "ah."

At the end of Act I, everyone is winding down his day.  The children are in their rooms preparing for bed.  George and his sister Rebecca are talking, looking out their windows. In describing a letter mailed to an sick  friend by a local  minister, Rebecca describes a the envelop's unusual address:

Jane Crofut; The Crofut Farm; Grover’s Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America; . . . Continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of God.

What amazes and delights both children  is that “the postman brought it just the same.”

Of course, the youngsters miss the significance of the address.  Every person is a small part of the world.  But each of has a place in the world which travels all the way to God.  We are bound together through our homes, our countries, our lives, and our God.  Jane Crofut represents each person who takes up a small place in the large universe; no matter how small or insiginficant that person may feel, he is still a part and connected to me and to you.