Our Town

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Joe Crowell Character Analysis

Joe delivers the Grover’s Corners Sentinel to townspeople’s doors. He appears in Act One and in Emily’s flashback in Act Three. The stage manager informs the audience that Joe graduated at the top of his class and earned a scholarship to MIT, but his promising future as an engineer was cut short when he died in World War I.

Joe Crowell Quotes in Our Town

The Our Town quotes below are all either spoken by Joe Crowell or refer to Joe Crowell. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Theater Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Perennial edition of Our Town published in 2003.
Act 1 Quotes

Want to tell you something about that boy Joe Crowell there. Joe was awful bright—graduated from high school here, head of his class. So he got a scholarship to Massachusetts Tech. Graduated head of his class there, too. It was all wrote up in the Boston paper at the time. Goin’ to be a great engineer, Joe was. But the war broke out and he died in France.—All that education for nothing.

Related Characters: Stage Manager (speaker), Joe Crowell
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

From the Stage Manager’s brief account, it is evident that the late Joe Crowell was both an anomaly and a hero to Grover’s Corners. In a town of ordinariness, sameness, and tradition, Joe’s intelligence distinguished him from the rest—he was, in short, remarkable, in the way that almost no other residents are perceived.

Despite Joe’s bright future as an engineer, the Stage Manager’s blunt explanation of his untimely death during the war suggests that, although glamorous at face value, being remarkable and distinguishing oneself from the pack is ultimately a futile pursuit.

We all arrive at the same end—death—and because we are all eventually equalized this way, our lifelong efforts to stand out or achieve something different from the norm (for example, all of Joe’s efforts to become educated) are all “for nothing.” To feel fulfilled, it may as well be more valuable for us to be ordinary, and moreover, content with our ordinariness, than to grasp beyond. 

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Joe Crowell Character Timeline in Our Town

The timeline below shows where the character Joe Crowell appears in Our Town. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
The Everyday and the Ordinary Theme Icon
Mrs. Webb also begins to make breakfast in her own home. Outside, Joe Crowell walks down Main Street, delivering newspapers. Joe speaks with Dr. Gibbs, who asks if... (full context)
Time, Change, and Continuity Theme Icon
The stage manager tells the audience that Joe graduated high school at the top of his class and got a scholarship to MIT.... (full context)
Act 2
Time, Change, and Continuity Theme Icon
...comes along Main Street, delivering milk as in act one. He runs into Si Crowell, Joe’s younger brother who now delivers the newspaper in Grover’s Corners. Si says it’s too bad... (full context)
Act 3
Community Theme Icon
Joe Stoddard, the town undertaker, enters and runs into Sam Craig, who grew up in Grover’s... (full context)
Community Theme Icon
...her nephew, to Simon Stimson. Sam sees Simon’s grave and recalls his habit of drinking. Joe informs him that Simon took his own life. (full context)
Time, Change, and Continuity Theme Icon
Sam asks what caused the death of his cousin and Joe says she died in childbirth. The funeral procession arrives, including George, Dr. Gibbs, and Mr.... (full context)
Time, Change, and Continuity Theme Icon
...Corners as she remembers it from her childhood. She sees Howie Newsome, Constable Warren, and Joe Crowell talking and remarks that Constable Warren has since died. (full context)