Discussion Topic

Mrs. Gibbs's changing feelings about George's marriage in Our Town

Summary:

Mrs. Gibbs initially feels apprehensive about George's marriage in Our Town, worrying about his readiness and the changes it will bring. However, her feelings evolve as she recognizes the importance of love and companionship for her son, ultimately accepting and supporting his decision to marry Emily.

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Why does Mrs. Gibbs change her mind about the wedding in Our Town?

“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.

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Why does Mrs. Gibbs change her opinion about George's marriage in Our Town?

Mrs. Gibbs is a character who, when she first hears about George's plans to marry Emily, reacts in a way that perhaps is understandable given her love for George and her concern for him. Note what she says in the following speech:

I declare I don't know how he'll get along. I've arranged his clothes and seen to it he's put warm things on--Frank! They're too young. Emily won't think of such things. He'll catch his death of cold within a week...

Her objections in this speech are based on her maternal concern for George and her worry that he will not be looked after properly. However, after a little time to think about it, she accepts that she needs to let go and that they need to marry:

And once he's on the farm, he might just as well have a companion, seeing he's found a fine girl like Emily... People are meant to live two by two in this world... Yes, Frank, go up and tell them it's all right.

Mrs. Gibbs seems to have moved in this speech from shock to acceptance. Having had time to think about it, she begins to see that George is growing up and that it would be good for him to have a wife as he starts the next chapter of his life. Mrs. Gibbs therefore changes her mind as she begins to think about her son's marriage and has time to let the shock subside.

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