Our Town By Thorton Wilder 1897

Our Town By Thorton Wilder (1897 – 1975) Essay, Research Paper

Thornton Wilder’s Our Town provides the

audience with an informal, intimate and compelling human drama. Wilder

was dissatisfied with the unimaginative, stilted theatrical productions

of his time: “[They] aimed to be soothing. The tragic had no heat; the

comic had no bite; the social criticism failed to indict us with responsibility.”

Our Town, with its far-reaching theme and unmistakable symbolism, was a

far cry from the typical bland depression era play (though, ironically,

“the magic of the mundane” is the play’s major theme).

Though set during the early Twentieth Century,

Grover’s Corner is anyplace and all places, anytime and all times. A constantly

shifting verb tense throughout the play reveals that something strange

is happening here with time. Pantomime and conversation simultaneously

enact life’s continuum of time and place.

The principal actor is the Stage Manager,

who remains on stage the entire time explaining much of the action. He

is aware of the present, and privy to both the past and the future. He

knows the characters’ feelings, and alternately takes on the roles of narrator,

philosophical druggist, host, master of ceremonies, commentator and friend

to the audience.

Wilder creates types rather than individuals

in 0ur Town. Every audience member can say, “Yes, I know someone like that.

He’s just like so-and-so,” or “I know what he is feeling. I’ve felt that

way myself.” This sense of “recollection” permeates the play to both thrill

and haunt us with reminders of our common – and fragile – humanity- By

using the barest of scenery and props, Wilder reinforces that our hopes

and despairs and loves begin and end not with things, but in the mind and

the soul, as our lives unfold through one another. This focus on “absolute

reality” allows us to see Emily’s simplest pleasures and cares (algebra

lessons, birthday presents, etc.) through child-like eyes. Her timelessness

helps the audience understand, just as she herself comes to understand,

the seamless relationship between past, present and future. Her commonplace

experiences (marriage, family … ) contrast sharply with her death experience,

where she finally comes to appreciate the commonplace. The play motivates

the audience to treasure everyday life just as it is.


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