Wilder’s act is set in the cemetery outside

Wilder’s passionate plea in the play is to appreciate every moment of every day, for life is a fleeting thing. With troubles rapidly expanding in Europe and war becoming a looming reality, people were inundated with the negative aspects of life. To see Our Town was to escape from the negative and rejoice in the ordinary; it reaffirmed faith in the unchanging moral values of small town living. It was obviously the balm that audiences needed in the midst of a pessimistic and changing world.

Through his play, Wilder tries to teach the audience to seize the moment and enjoy living. There are no guarantees about a certain life span, as evidenced by the premature deaths of Emily Webb and her brother, Wally; tomorrow may be too late. By calling the drama Our Town and portraying ordinary people and events, the people in the audience and the readers of the play can identify with the theme and apply it to their own lives. Our Town is an unusual play in structure. It intentionally contains little action, in order to support the theme; nothing exciting or suspenseful happens in any of the three acts, just as nothing exciting happens in Grover’s Corners. The play also ignores most dramatic conventions. In the beginning, the Stage Manager saunters on to an empty stage to talk directly to the audience; he tells them that the play is ready to begin. He then describes the appearance of Grover’s Corners and its inhabitants.

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The play also ignores the unity of time and place. Between the first and second acts, three years pass. Then between the second and third acts, another nine years pass. In addition, the omniscient Stage Manager has repeated flashbacks to the past and flash-forwards to the future, further negating a unity of time. The play also has many locations. Although the entire play takes place in or around Grover’s Corners, each act has a different and distinct key setting.

In Act I, most of the action takes place in the homes of the Webb’s and the Gibbs; often the activity in both homes is seen on stage at once, in order to emphasize the sameness of things in this small town. The second act is set largely at the church, where Emily and George are married. The last act is set in the cemetery outside of town and in the home of Emily during her revisit to her twelfth birthday. Not surprisingly, these acts are entitled by the main concern of each. Act I is called “Daily Routine,” Act II is Love and Marriage, and the final act is called Death. In spite of the lack of unity provided by time and location in the play, character serves as a great unifier.

The Stage Manager and Emily are seen throughout the drama.


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