Our Town revolves around the community of the classic American small town of Grover’s Corners. The town is characterized by its small size, closeness, and familiarity. Everyone there knows each other (which is occasionally cause for town gossip) and goes to the same schools and churches. The town is filled with features of early twentieth century Americana, from the ice cream sodas George and Emily order at the local drugstore to the importance of baseball to the town’s youth. The title of the play emphasizes the importance of community: the town belongs to all those who live there and share it. And those who live in Grover’s Corners rarely leave. The same families have been living in the town and burying their dead in the same cemetery for years, and most of the high school students there will eventually settle down in their home town. Even the dead don’t leave Grover’s Corners, as we see in act three with the deceased characters lingering around the town cemetery.
Wilder’s play is in many ways an ode to these kinds of classic American small towns—a dying breed in the twentieth century—as he lovingly documents their quirks and features, like the local milkman (Howie Newsome) bringing milk to everyone’s door. However, the play’s stance toward such a local community can be seen as slightly more ambiguous. The small-town atmosphere of Grover’s Corners can also be suffocating. There is something troubling about the spirits of the dead simply lingering around the town, whose magnetic pull keeps George from exploring his talents in baseball or even going to agricultural college. Emily is extremely gifted and talented in school, but she never pursues any further education, opting to settle down with George at a young age. People seem content to stay in Grover’s Corners, but this lack of ambition can also be seen as a negative thing. Mrs. Gibbs, for example, dreams of seeing Paris one day, and speaks of the value of traveling and seeing some of the world: “once in your life before you die you ought to see a country where they don’t talk in English and don’t even want to,” she tells Dr. Webb in act one. Thus, while Wilder paints a loving portrait of small-town America, he also subtly points to some of its limitations. The play’s stance toward Grover’s Corners and its citizens is split between a nostalgia for simpler times and a knowing pretension toward the community’s isolated, occasionally naïve members.
Community Quotes in Our Town
Nice town, y’know what I mean? Nobody very remarkable ever come out of it, s’far as we know.
In our town we like to know the facts about everybody.
Only it seems to me that once in your life before you die you ought to see a country where they don’t talk in English and don’t even want to.
They’re all getting citified, that’s the trouble with them.
I never told you about that letter Jane Crofut got from her minister when she was sick. He wrote Jane a letter and on the envelope the address was like this: It said: Jane Crofut; The Crofut Farm; Grover’s Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America.
What’s funny about that?
But listen, it’s not finished; the United States of America; Continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of God.
And now they’re bringing in these auto-mo-biles, the best thing to do is to just stay home. Why, I can remember when a dog could go to sleep all day in the middle of Main Street and nothing come along to disturb him.
It certainly seems like being away three years you’d get out of touch with things. Maybe letters from Grover’s Corners wouldn’t be so interesting after a while. Grover’s Corners isn’t a very important place when you think of all—New Hampshire; but I think it’s a very nice town.
The day wouldn’t come when I wouldn’t want to know everything that’s happening here. I know that’s true, Emily.
And, like you say, being gone all that time... in other places and meeting other people... Gosh, if anything like that can happen I don’t want to go away. I guess new people aren’t any better than old ones. I’ll bet they almost never are. Emily... I feel that you’re as good a friend as I’ve got. I don’t need to go and meet the people in other towns.