Discuss the purpose of the time capsule in Our Town by Thornton Wilder.

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“A thousand years from now…”

The Stage Manager controls the events of the play Our Town by Thornton Wilder.  As one of the most fascinating characters in American theater, the Stage Manager provides information about the town and characters for the audience.

In Act I, the Manager explains that he wants to place a time capsule in the cornerstone of the new bank that is under construction.  Time capsules are placed with the intention that they will be opened or accessed at a future date. The capsules contain items that will illustrate what life was like for the future generations.

The time capsule seems very important to the Stage Manager.  Remember that his purpose is to keep the audience informed. To him,  the future audiences will also know what life was like in 1901 in Grover’s Corners.   

What should be included in the time capsule to represent civilization at the turn of the twentieth century? Remember the Stage Manager is speaking for all people who live in a small town somewhere in the United States not just Grover’s Corners.

A copy of the local paper-This will relate the kinds of things that are happening in a small town.  From the obituary to the births to the weddings.

The New York Times-For the time, this newspaper would have been the most informative concerning national and possibly world news.  It also gave the news about the largest city in the United States.

A Bible-The majority of Americans at the time would have been Christians.  This book represented the spiritual aspect of man.

The Constitution of the United States-This document would explain what rights a democratic government protected and ensured  the people of America.  It would also stand as an example for future civilizations of the greatest government in the world.

The plays of William Shakespeare-These great plays had already endured for three hundred years.  These dramas would represent man’s appreciation of art and literature.

Knowledge of the ancient civilization of Babylon and its citizens have been lost to the world.  It had two million people but no one wrote or provided any indication of what life was like for the Babylonians. They probably had families that shared meals, and fathers that came home from work…just as in the current times.  Even in Greece and Rome, nothing is really known about their actual lives.  This must not happened again. They did leave behind some poetry and plays which provides some information.

If one thousand years passes before this time capsule is opened, then the people will know what life was life in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire in 1901. The Stage Manager finishes his monologue by saying that he will also include a copy of this play Our Town. If the drama is included, they will know what it was like in the daily lives of people, the love and marriage, and even their dying.

So—people a thousand years from now--this the way we were in the provinces north of New York at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
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