How does Thornton Wilder make the Stage Manager in Our Town a memorable, likable, and trustworthy character? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Stage Manager reminds many a reader of the Greek Chorus, who provide commentary on the action and the characters in ancient Greek drama. The ubiquitous Stage Manager plays a perhaps even broader and more integral role in Our Town.

The Stage Manager acts as a narrator who provides local color for the audience. He also manipulates time, as in Act One—"We're going to look back on it from the future." Further, he is the voice of Mrs. Forrest, and he plays the roles of the drugstore owner and the minister who performs George and Emily's marriage ceremony. He is virtually omnipresent, and he even speaks directly to Emily at her burial site. In short, he often acts as a liaison between the characters and the audience.

The Stage Manager is a memorable character for his versatility and omnipresence, but also for his wisdom. He is able to provide the audience and readers with all the information they need, and he acts as a trustworthy guide throughout the play. For instance, in Act Two as he watches Emily and George leave the drugstore, he wants to learn what the parents think of their children wishing to marry.

Oh, you know what I mean...People are never able to say right out what they think of money, or death, or fame, or marriage. You've got to catch it between the lines; you've got to over-hear it. (Act II)

The Stage Manager is likable because he speaks to the audience as though they are his equals and part of his group: "We're going to look back on it [the town] from the future." In another instance, he says,

"So friends, this is the way we were in our growing up and in our marrying and in our doctoring and in our living and in our dying." (Act I)

He is also likable for his homespun wisdom. For instance, as he speaks to the audience, the Stage Manager alludes to Emily Webb and George Gibbs. He asks his listeners to remember when they were young as he invites them into the play.

For some reason it is very hard to do—those days when even the little things in life could be almost too exciting to bear. And particularly the days when you were first in love, when you were like a person sleepwalking, and you didn't quite see the street you were in, and you didn't quite hear everything that was said to you. (Act II)

Finally, at the funeral of Emily Gibb, who died tragically in childbirth, the Stage Manager imparts more of his wisdom:

You know as well as I that the dead don't stay interested in us living.... Gradually they let hold of the earth...and the ambitions they had...and the pleasures...and the things they suffered...and the people they loved. (Act III)

It is the Stage Manager who draws the curtain across the scene as he bids the audience good night while he contemplates the stars "doing their old, old crisscross journeys in the sky."

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Stage Manager establishes himself as being a very personable and easy-to-talk-with individual from the beginning of the play. His language is not complicated or difficult to understand; he communicates profound ideas in very simple words.

Everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years

The Stage Manager is separate from the action of the play, but at the same time, his affection for the people and the place is obvious. He takes the time to explain to the audience how characters related to each other and to their life circumstances without making judgements, and without giving away details that are more effectively revealed by the characters themselves. He never is unkind and critical, always showing patience with the human faults of the residents of his town. However, he can react to the characters when they need response from a source outside the circle of acquaintances in the play.

Emily: Does anyone ever realize life while they live it...every, every minute?

Stage Manager: No. Saints and poets maybe...they do some.

Read the study guide:
Our Town

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