Student Question

In Act II of Our Town, who are "M" and "N" in the Stage Manager's speech, "M marries N"?

"I've married over two hundred couples in my day. Do I believe in it? I don't know, M marries N millions of them. The cottage, the go-cart,...Once in a thousand times it's interesting."

Expert Answers

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

The speech in Our Town in which the Stage Manager/Minister mentions "M marries N" is in a sort of soliloquy for the Stage Manager in which he reveals personal thoughts and impressions. We know he is revealing personal thoughts because he says, "Do I believe in it?" followed by the answer, "I don't' know,..." It is as part of this "I don't know..." answer that "M" and "N" are mentioned.

As it happens, "M" and "N" are metaphorical. These letters represent the millions of Marks and Matthews and Mohamets and the millions of Ninas and Najahs and Nancys who have been wed over the centuries. It also happens that in this soliloquy (of sorts) the Stage Manager/Minister symbolizes an Every Minister sort of character; it is not possible that one minister of the Stage Manager's moderate age (nowhere is the Stage Manager described as being of extraordinarily advanced years) could possibly have married millions of couples.

So "M" and "N" are place holders for unspecified individuals, sort of like the "X" and "Y" in a mathematical equation: There is a number that belongs to each, it is just at the moment symbolically represented and unspecified.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial