“Act II” in Our Town by Thornton Wilder is labeled “Love and Marriage.” The play portrays the lives of the citizens of a small town in New Hampshire at the turn of the twentieth century. Using the Gibbs and Webbs families as his primary characters, Emily Webb and George Gibbs are getting married when Act II begins.
The Stage Manager enters and points out some interesting facts and Mrs. Webbs and Mrs. Gibbs.
… both of those ladies cooked three meals a day—one of ‘em for twenty years, the other for forty—and no summer vacation. They brought up two children apiece, washing, cleaned the house—and never a nervous breakdown.
This the life of a woman in this time in history.
Establishing the subject of the act, the Manager quotes a line from a poem called “Lucinda Matlock” by Edgar Lee Masters:
You’ve got to love life to have life, and you’ve got to have life to love life.
All of these lovely people enjoy their lives for the most part and live each day to the fullest.
It is Emily and George’s wedding day. Mrs. Gibbs comes down to prepare breakfast. Dr. Gibbs teases her about losing one of her chicks. She is obviously upset and shares with her husband her fears. First, she thinks that George is too immature. He does not take care of his clothes or know when to dress warmly. In addition, Emily is too immature as well. George will get a cold because she does not know how to take of him.
Dr. Gibbs begins to talk to his wife. He shares with his wife that he felt like he was marrying a total stranger when they were married. For the first time, he tells her that he was afraid that the two of them would not have enough to talk about…but they have survived and are not only husband and wife but friends as well. He also states that everyone starts out the same, and every couple faces their own set of problems.
Mrs. Gibbs decides that human beings are not meant to live by themselves; they should live in pairs. This few moments of sharing with her husband reminds George’s mother about how it feels to be young and in love. Every mother and father worry about their children as they begin their married lives. Even Dr. and Mrs. Gibbs started out with their own problems. They survived, as will Emily and George.
It is the vicious cycle that the Stage Manager refers to in the beginning of the act. One generation has the same feelings that the previous generation faces. Life goes on and on. People are born, they grow up, they fall in love, and they get married. That was the cycle of life in 1904 in Grover’s Corners and every little town in the United States.