Our Town by Thorton Wilder (1897 - 1975)

Our Town
by Thorton Wilder (1897
- 1975)

Type of Work:

Presentational life drama


Grover's Corners, New Hampshire; 1901
to 1913

Principal Characters

Stage Ma Beer, the play's all-wise narrator

Dr. and Mrs. Gibbs, an ordinary small-
town physician and housewife

George Gibbs, their son

Mr. and Mrs. Webb, a news editor and his

Emily Webb, their daughter

Simon Stimson , the town drunkard and
church choir organist

A conglomeration of other ordinary people
living out ordinary lives

Story Overveiw

Act 1. Daily Life:

The Stage Manager speaks while pointing
to different parts of the stage: "Up here is Main Street ... Here's the

Town Hall and Post Office combined ... First automobile's going to come
along in about five years; belonged to Banker Cartwright, our richest citizen
... lives in the big white house up on the hill." A train whistle is heard,
and the early birds of the town start to appear. The newsboy and the milkman
begin their rounds just as the doctor is finishing his. They stop for a
brief exchange of gossip: the school teacher is getting married, the doctor
just delivered twins, and the milkman's horse refuses to adjust to a change
in route.

Now Mrs. Webb and Mrs. Gibbs are spotlighted
in their respective kitchens, preparing breakfast. Mrs. Gibbs calls up
to her children, George and Rebecca, and, as they appear, complains to
her husband that George isn't helping with the chores. Mrs. Webb reminds
her son Wally to wash thoroughly. The Gibbs daughter, Rebecca, doesn't
want to wear her blue gingham dress. George negotiates for a raise in his
allowance. Each child is reminded to eat slowly, finish his breakfast,
stand up straight ... The day has begun.

Later, coming home from school, Emily Webb
promises to give George Gibbs some help with his algebra. At the Congregational

Church, choir practice can be heard. In the Gibbs home, George and his
father have a "serious" talk about growing up. Returning from choir practice,

Mrs. Gibbs prattles on about the drunken choir organist, Simon Stimson.

The town constable makes his rounds to ensure that all is well, and the

Stage Manager calls an end to this typical day in Grover's Corners.

Act 2. Love and Marriage:

"Three years have gone by," muses the Stage

Manager. "Yes, the sun's come up over a thousand times . . . " The date
is now July 7,1904. It's been raining. As Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Webb reappear
in their kitchens, he continues: "Both of those ladies cooked three meals
a day - one of'em for twenty years and the other for forty - and no summer
vacation. They brought up two children apiece, washed, cleaned the house
... and never a nervous breakdown. It's like what one of those Middle West
poets said: You've got to love life to have life, and you've got to have
life to love life ... It's what they call a vicious circle."

Howie, the milkman, makes his deliveries
to Mrs. Webb and Mrs. Gibbs, and at each house you hear talk of the same
two breakfast-table conversation topics: the weather and the upcoming wedding
of Emily and George. The chit-chat is typical of things people say before
weddings. Mrs. Gibbs worries out loud about the inexperience of the bride
and groom; the doctor reminisces about being a groom himself. His fear
was that he and his wife would run out of things to talk about which, he
chuckles, hasn't been the case at all.

When George comes downstairs and is about
to leave for a visit with Emily, his mother reminds him to put on his overshoes.

But Emily's mother, though she invites George into her kitchen, won't let
him see her daughter. Traditionally, she says, a groom is not allowed to
see his bride on the wedding day until the ceremony begins. Mr. Webb placates
young George: "There is a lot of common sense in some superstitions." The
nervous groom sits down to a cup of coffee with Mr. Webb, his equally nervous
future father-in-law. Mr. Webb makes various attempts at small talk and
reassures George that his nervousness about impending matrimony is typical.

"A man looks pretty small at a wedding ... all those women standing shoulder
to shoulder making sure that the knot is tied in a might grand way." He
then shares with George the advice his father gave him when he married;
the stern counsel to keep his wife in line and show her who's in charge.

George is puzzled until Mr. Webb goes on: "So I took the opposite of my
father's advice and I've been happy ever since."