Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 443
Cycle of Life
Our Town begins at daybreak with the birth of twins in a Polish town and ends at night with the death of Emily Webb Gibbs in childbirth. As one life ends, another begins. Throughout the play, Wilder (through the Stage Manager—a role Wilder himself once played) directs the attention of the audience to the repetition of the cycle of life. In his opening monologue, he points out that the names on tombstones in the graveyard that date back to the 1600s are "the same names that are around here now." As Act Two opens, the Stage Manager talks about the sun having "come up over a thousand times," the growing up and the slowing down of some of the town's residents, and the millions of gallons of water [that have gone] by the mill.'' His comments about marriage are particularly interesting:
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 g-cart, the Sunday-afternoon drives in the Ford, the first rheumatism, the grandchildren, the second rheumatism, the deathbed, the reading of the will,... Once in a thousand times it's interesting.
Meaning of Life
Thornton Wilder is often considered to be a religious writer and Our Town is often considered to be a religious play. Yet, there is little mention of heaven or God or any of those subjects often thought of as being religious. The Stage Manager muses aloud about the word eternal at the beginning of Act Three.
Now there are some things we all know, but we don't take'm out and look at'ra very often. We all know that something is eternal. And it ain't houses and it ain't names, and it ain't earth, and it ain't even the stars... everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you'd be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There's something way down deep that's eternal about every human being.
Love and Passion
The characters in Our Town mention love often and Wilder provides the audience with many illustrations. The major characters all love one another, and throughout the play the audience is given examples of different types of love. In Act One, family love and friendship predominate. Parents and children love each other, and neighbors love one another as well. In Act Two, romantic love blossoms into marriage. In Act Three, spiritual, selfless love, the love that expects nothing in return, is shown.