Our Town

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Our Town Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Thornton Wilder's Our Town. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Thornton Wilder
The son of a newspaper editor, Thornton Wilder began writing plays at an early age. He attended Oberlin College before transferring to Yale University, where he graduated in 1920. After graduating, Wilder taught at a school in New Jersey while continuing to write. In 1927, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey. He later won the Pulitzer Prize in drama twice, for his plays Our Town (1938) and The Skin of Our Teeth (1942). After serving in World War II, he held various teaching positions, including at Harvard. He continued to write and moved in social circles with various major figures in American literature of his time, such as Ernest Hemingway and Willa Cather. Wilder died in 1975, one of the most decorated twentieth-century American writers. His plays, especially Our Town, are often performed to this day.
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Historical Context of Our Town
The play is firmly set in the beginning of the twentieth century. The play does not involve any major historical events, though the stage manager alludes to World War I when he describes the tragically early death of Joe Crowell in France.
Other Books Related to Our Town
None
Key Facts about Our Town
  • Full Title: Our Town: A Play in Three Acts
  • When Written: 1930s
  • Where Written: United States
  • When Published: 1938
  • Literary Period: The play blends realism with modernism.
  • Genre: Drama (the play does not fit any specific theater genre like comedy or tragedy)
  • Setting: Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, between 1899 and 1913
  • Climax: In act three, the deceased Emily relives her twelfth birthday but finds it too painful and realizes that it is foolish to try to relive the past.
  • Antagonist: There is no real antagonist in the play. All the characters live ordinary lives, struggling only against the normal passage of time that affects everyone.
  • Point of View: Dramatic play
Extra Credit for Our Town

Not in Our Town. In 1946, the USSR banned a production of Our Town in East Berlin, because the play was deemed too depressing.

Stage Manager. Thornton Wilder himself played the stage manager in some productions of the play on Broadway.