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In Act 2 of Our Town, who is the "real hero" the Stage Manager refers to?

"The real hero of this scene isn't on the stage at all, and you know who that is. It's like what one of those European fellas said: every child born into the word is nature's attempt to make a perfect human being...that's why I'm in the ministry."

Quick answer:

In Act 2 of Our Town, the "real hero" the Stage Manager refers to is God or spirituality. The Stage Manager mentions the ancestors and the spiritual witnesses at the wedding, implying that God, who sanctifies marriage, is the true hero. This is supported by the minister's references to nature's attempt to create a perfect human and Christian theology.

Expert Answers

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Another aspect to look at with this scene is the paragraph directly after the original quote:

And don't forget all the other witnesses at this wedding, the ancestors. Millions of them. Most of them set out to live two-by-two, also. Millions of them.

The Stage Manager mentions the ancestors of the characters, and of the entire town, who are there in spirit to witness the union of Emily and George. These "millions" of witnesses also allude to the fact that God, or spirituality, is the "real hero" of this scene.

In fact, this play is about this community and communities just like Grover's Corners across America. While today many may argue that American is less Christian than it has been historically or that Christianity should not be the only religious identity of this country, this play recognizes that at a point in history, Christianity united this country. I do not think that Thornton Wilder intended for that commentary at the time he wrote this play, but I do think that context should be considered today.

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In Our Town, you're right in thinking that this is a vague reference to "the real hero," for it is. The "real hero of this scene" isn't defined but hints, clues, are given to the identity of this "hero." First, the line is spoken by the Stage Manger who is playing the minister for the moment. By the way, the players don't know the minister is really the Stage Manager, only the audience (or readers) knows that.

The second clue is that the minister speaks of nature attempting to make a perfect human being. In Christian theology--and Christian theology is relevant to the scene because it takes place in a Christian church--the perfect person in Jesus, who is part of the tripart Godhead.

The third clue is that the minister says "quality" is why he is in the ministry, which is a Biblical allusion connected to Jesus as the one, in Christian theology, whose writings teach how to attain a life of quality. The final clue is an indirect one. It is before God that Christian wedding vows are exchanged. Therefore, after putting these vague clues together, the only conclusion is that "the real hero" is really God who is the author of marriage--as in the Christian creation story--and the One who will sanctify the upcoming marriage.

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