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Our Town by Thornton Wilder is set in the imaginary "everytown" called Grover's Corners, and the two "everyman" families in the play are the Gibbses and the Webbs. On the morning the play opens, we meet Doctor Gibbs who has just come home from delivering twins.
WHen he gets home, his wife greets him and worries about him, but then she tells her husband that he has to give their son a little talking-to about not doing his household chores. She says, "Seems like something's come over him lately. He's no help to me at all. I can't even get him to cut me some wood." While George has not been "sassing" his mother, he has been whining and mooning around thinking more about baseball than the chores he is supposed to do for his mother. George is a teenage boy, and it is not surprising that he would have to be reminded to pay attention to his household chores because he is completely absorbed only in the things he likes to do.
Doctor Gibbs does a masterful job of getting his son to do what Mrs. Gibbs wants without lecturing and without completely bribing him to do the right thing:
Well, George, while I was in my office today I heard a funny sound…and what do you think it was? It was your mother chopping wood. There you see your mother…getting up early; cooking meals all day long; washing and ironing and still she has to go out in the back yard and chop wood. I suppose she just got tired of asking you. She just gave up and decided it was easier to do it herself. And you eat her meals, and put on the clothes she keeps nice for you, and you run off and play baseball…like she's some hired girl we keep around the house but that we don't like very much. Well, I knew all I had to do was call your attention to it. Here's a handkerchief, son. George, I've decided to raise your spending money twenty-five cents a week. Not, of course, for chopping wood for your mother, because that's a present you give her, but because you're getting older and I imagine there are lots of things you must find to do with it.
The truth is that George has been thinking about more than baseball. He has been mooning a bit over the girl next door, Emily Webb, and he has also been feeling the need to have more money.
Doctor Gibbs plays on his son's guilt a bit and is justified in doing so because what he says is the truth. All George needs is a gentle reminder and a small bribe. His father makes the proper assumption that an extra twenty-five cents a week is a small price to pay to ensure that both his wife and his son are happy--and that the chores will get done.
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