How is Wilder's use of flashbacks in Our Town a dramatic technique?I have to analyse his use of flashbacks and I really don't know where to start. Thanks. :)

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jseligmann eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The play was first performed in 1938 and is presented from a modern, matter-of-fact, in-the-omniscient-present point of view. Thus, since everything that happens in the play begins in 1901 and ends in 1913, the whole play can be seen as a flashback. So the question really should be: are there flashbacks within the flashback? The answer is Yes.

There are two major flashback scenes in the play. The first flashback begins a bit after the beginning of the Second Act, the act called "Love and Marriage." The act begins on the morning of the rainy day that George and Emily are to be married. The Stage Manager stops the action in order to show/re-enact the day that George and Emily go on their first impromptu date and knew that they were meant for each other.

The second major flashback takes in the Third Act, in the graveyard. Emily has died in childbirth and, while she chats in wonder with the other dead people around her, she asks the Stage Manager if she can go back and live a day again. She is warned not to, but doesn't heed the others' advice. The flashback she is given is her twelfth birthday. In the end, the flashback is far too painful and real for Emily to bear, and she pleads to be taken back up to the windy hill and into her grave.

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Our Town

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