Why are poets and saints the only ones who can enjoy life according to Thornton Wilder?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In this passage, Emily has died in childbirth. She is allowed to go back home and see her family from beyond the grave. Once home, she realizes it was a mistake to return. She understands, now that it is too late for her to do anything about it, all the...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In this passage, Emily has died in childbirth. She is allowed to go back home and see her family from beyond the grave. Once home, she realizes it was a mistake to return. She understands, now that it is too late for her to do anything about it, all the world has to offer the living if they would only open their eyes fully and see it.

She is sad because she recognizes that her mother can't fully see her and never could. She tries to talk to her, but it is hopeless. Emily says, in anguish:

I can't go on. It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another. (she breaks down sobbing, she looks around) I didn't realize. All that was going on in life and we never noticed. Take me back—up the hill—to my grave.

But before she goes, Emily says goodbye to the earth and to the all the sensual pleasures she can no longer enjoy, such as food, coffee, newly ironed dresses, sunflowers, hot baths, and being able to go to sleep and wake up. She took all of these for granted when she was alive, but she does not now. She says:

Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you. ... Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?

The stage manager replies that the saints and poets do, at least some of the time. They can fully enjoy life because they have the ability to stand apart from it and really absorb and think about it. They truly look at the world and therefore can see the holiness and blessedness of material existence that the rest of us miss.

Emily's speech can't help her, but it is advice to the audience to grab hold of life and live it fully while there is still time.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team