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Our Town Analysis

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

From the very beginning of the play, the illusion of the invisible wall is abolished and the audience sees an empty stage in half light. After some time, the Stage Manager appears and begins placing a table and chairs on stage. Not until the lights dim and the audience is left in total darkness does the Stage Manager—director, puppeteer, and illusionist—speak. He functions as an all-knowing citizen of Grover’s Corners: He manipulates time by re-creating the past and revealing the future, interrupts the dialogue of the characters, invites questions from the audience, provides information, at times fills the roles of other characters, and philosophizes about the meaning of life. He is the central figure of the play, full of simple wisdom and unself-conscious humor. He is a spellbinder, appealing to audiences and readers of all ages.

An element of Our Town that must be attractive especially to young people is the simplicity and directness of the language. Wilder was a master of colloquial speech who did not resort to too many rhetorical devices. His diction and syntax are easily understandable without being in the least monotonous. In fact, much variety of tone is evident in Our Town. One can consider, for example, Dr. Gibbs’s statement to his wife about a father-son relationship that “there’s nothing so terrifying in the world as a son. The relation of father to a son is the damnedest, awkwardest—. I always come away feeling like a soggy sponge of hypocrisy.” One may also note George’s earnest outcry before the wedding—“Ma, I don’t want to grow old. Why’s everybody pushing me so?”—and Emily’s beautiful farewell to the world—“Good-by, Grover’s Corners . . . Mamma and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking . . . and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths . . . and sleeping and waking up.” Finally, there are the Stage Manager’s poetic remarks on the cemetery and the profound peacefulness of the dead: “Yes, an awful lot of sorrow has sort of quieted down up here. People just wild with grief have brought their relatives up to this hill. We all know how it is . . . and then time . . . and sunny days . . . and rainy days . . . ’n snow . . . tz-tz-tz. We’re all glad they’re in a beautiful place and we’re coming up here ourselves when our fit’s over.”

Perhaps the clearest clue to the meaning of Our Town is the address that a young girl receives on a letter from her minister: “Jane Crofut; The Crofut Farm; Grover’s Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America; Continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of...

(The entire section is 684 words.)