Our Town


Thornton Wilder

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The stage manager arranges some tables and chairs on stage while the audience enters the theater, and then addresses the audience. He tells them that they are about to see a play called “Our Town” about the town of Grover’s Corners. He introduces the audience to Dr. Gibbs and Mrs. Gibbs, as well as their neighbor, Mr. Webb, who edits the local newspaper, The Grover’s Corners Sentinel. The stage manager reveals that Dr. Gibbs died in 1930, and his wife died much earlier. It is early in the morning, and Dr. Gibbs is returning home after helping with the birth of a pair of twins. Mrs. Gibbs begins to make breakfast while in the Webb household Mrs. Webb does the same. Dr. Gibbs runs into Joe Crowell, a young boy who delivers the newspaper. The stage manager informs the audience that Joe graduated at the top of his class from high school and earned a scholarship to MIT. He had a promising career as an engineer, but joined the army in World War I and died in France. Howie Newsome, the local milkman, delivers milk to the Gibbs and Webbs. The two families’ children come down to breakfast: George and Rebecca Gibbs, and Emily and Wally Webb. The kids run off to school, and Mrs. Gibbs talks to Mrs. Webb. She tells Mrs. Webb that someone offered her $350 for an old piece of furniture in her home. She says she would consider selling it if she knew that Dr. Gibbs would spend the money on a vacation, and tells Mrs. Webb that she’s always wanted to see Paris. Dr. Gibbs, however, has no interest in traveling beyond visiting Civil War battle sites every two years.

The stage manager interrupts the women’s conversation and announces that he wants to give the audience more information about Grover’s Corners. He invites Professor Willard, a professor from the local state university, onto the stage to tell the audience about the town. He then invites Mr. Webb forward to give the “political and social report” on Grover’s Corners. Mr. Webb fields questions from three members of the audience, one of whom asks him if there is much culture in the town. Mr. Webb answers that there is not much. The stage manager says it is time to return to the play and announces that it is now the early afternoon. George and Emily return home from school and George asks her to help him with his homework (Emily is very intelligent and does well in school). The stage manager addresses the audience again to tell them about a new development in town. A new bank building is being built and the townspeople are burying various items in a time capsule with the cornerstone of the building. The townspeople are including copies of the New York Times and Grover’s Corners Sentinel, as well as of the Bible, the U.S. Constitution, and the works of Shakespeare. The stage manager decides to include a copy of Our Town, as well.

It is now evening and a church choir is practicing singing “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds” for a wedding. At the Gibbs home, Dr. Gibbs speaks with George about doing the chores around the house and asks him what his ambitions are for after high school. George wants to go work on his uncle’s farm and eventually take it over from him. Mrs. Gibbs, Mrs. Webb, and Mrs. Soames return from choir practice and gossip about the alcoholic choir director, Simon Stimson. The women go their separate ways and Mrs. Gibbs returns home. She tries to talk to her husband about him taking a significant break from work at some point, but Dr. Gibbs refuses. They both lament how Grover’s Corners is becoming “citified” because people are starting to lock their doors at night. Upstairs in the Gibbs’ house, Rebecca tells George about a letter her friend received that had the address, “Jane Crofut; The Crofut Farm; Grover’s Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America; Continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of God.” The stage manager announces the end of act one.

The stage manager announces at the beginning of act two that three years have passed. Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Webb make breakfast in their respective kitchens, and Howie Newsome delivers milk, as before. Joe Cromwell’s younger brother Si now delivers the town newspaper. It is gradually revealed that Emily and George are getting married. In their kitchen, Dr. Gibbs and Mrs. Gibbs recall their own wedding and how nervous they both were. George goes over to the Webb home, but Mrs. Webb tells him he cannot see Emily on their wedding morning. She goes upstairs to keep Emily from coming down, and Mr. Webb and George talk. Mr. Webb shares some marriage advice from his father, about making sure that the husband is the boss in the relationship and orders around the wife. But Mr. Webb says he has done the exact opposite and has had a happy marriage.

The stage manager interrupts the play to flashback to when George and Emily’s romantic relationship started. It is the end of George’s junior year in high school, and after school one day George and Emily are talking. Emily confesses to George that she is not pleased with how he has been acting recently and says that girls at school think he is conceited. George thanks Emily for being honest with him and the two have ice cream sodas at the local drugstore. George discusses his plans for the future, and after admitting that he has feelings for Emily (and learning that she feels similarly), he decides not to go to agricultural college, but rather to stay in Grover’s Corners with Emily.

The stage manager returns to the wedding day, where he performs the ceremony as the minister. Both Emily and George are nervous about the wedding and panic at the last minute, both anxious about leaving behind their childhoods and growing up. The two realize their love for each other, though, and are happily married by the stage manager, who then announces that the second act is over.

As the third act begins, the stage manager announces that nine years have passed since act two. Mrs. Gibbs, Simon Stimson, Mrs. Soames, and Wally Webb are standing in the cemetery, all deceased. Joe Stoddard, the town undertaker, talks with Sam Craig, who grew up in Grover’s Corners and has returned for the funeral of his cousin, who turns out to be Emily Webb, who died in childbirth. George, Dr. Gibbs, and Mr. and Mrs. Webb gather for the funeral, at which “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds” is sung. Emily enters and joins the other deceased characters. She asks if she can go back and relive her past life. Mrs. Gibbs tells her she can, but she and the stage manager try to dissuade her from doing so, because it is so painful.

Disregarding their warnings, Emily decides to relive the day of her twelfth birthday, and the stage manager takes her back to that day. She is amazed to see the town as it used to be and to see her parents look so young. But, she is also pained by knowing what will happen in the future (including the premature death of Wally). Ultimately, the pain is too much and Emily asks to be taken back to the cemetery. There, she and the other deceased souls agree that the living don’t “realize life while they live it” and don’t value their everyday lives as much as they should. George walks into the cemetery and kneels before Emily’s grave, grieving. The stage manager tells the audience that most of the citizens of Grover’s Corners are now going to sleep and they should get some rest, too, as the stars do “their old, old crisscross journeys in the sky.” He draws a curtain across the stage, ending the play.