Our Town – Thornton Wilder


Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? – every, every minute?

The play I chose for LRP event this month presents the events of everyday life in a way that underscores their value and their importance. We tend to hurry up with our lives: get this and that done, and suddenly day after day passes with little meaning or none at all. Hardly ever we take time to enjoy life as it is; to cherish every moment no matter how small that moment is, moments with those we love. Therefore the playwright Thornton Wilder wrote Our Town to remind us to be aware with the smallest events of our lives. He knew that those events, little and often ignored they are, sometimes have a meaning that surpass the “big” events. He knew that those are the things we would miss having.

The story of Our Town narrates the story of two families living in a small town, Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. There is Dr. Frank Gibbs, the town doctor, with his wife Julia and two children: George and Rebecca. Then there is the newspaper editor Mr. Charles Webb, with his wife Myrtle and two children: Wally and Emily. We will learn a lot about Grover’s Corners and how everyday life in the year 1901 was lead there in the first act. George and Emily were both sixteen in the first act. Emily, who was the brightest girl in her class, was helping George to do his math homework while Julia Gibbs talked to her husband about getting a vacation abroad. She was about to receive a considerable amount of money and she said, 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.” Sadly, she never got the vacation she wanted.

Here we move on to the second act. The time was July 7, 1904. The day was George and Emily’s wedding day. Yes, they got closer to each other; we saw a hint of it on the first act. We will see a little bit of flashback on the second act; when George was about to leave for college, Emily showed her worries about him and after a heart-to-heart conversation they confessed that they were in love with each other. Some wedding jitters, some nervousness, some reminiscence of Frank and Julia’s wedding day years before, and then George and Emily were married.

The third and last act is the critical part of the play. The time was 1913 and the scene was the burial of Emily, who died of childbirth. When the living was mourning, the dead took seats on a part of the stage: Julia Gibbs has been dead for some years now, along with a supporting character, Mr. Stimson who was a choir director of the town’s church and a drunk. The dead conversed about how little the living notice each other and the happiness they feel in the company of loved ones. Their eyes were open while the eyes of the living were shut. Living people are blind.

“That’s what it was to be alive. To move about in a cloud of ignorance; to go up and down trampling on the feelings of those . . . of those about you. To spend and waste time as though you had a million years. To be always at the mercy of one self-centered passion, or another. Now you know – that’s the happy existence you wanted to go back to. Ignorance and blindness.” (Mr. Stimson, Act III, p.109)

“We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the grandest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.” (Stage Manager, Act III, p.87-88)

So that was it. Act I tells about Daily Life. Act II about Love and Marriage. And Act III about Death. All three happens to every living human being, except marriage. I was surprised when I finished reading this play. I mean, I  love The Bridge of San Luis Rey, which was a Pulitzer-winning novel from the author. So I shouldn’t be surprised if I happen to like this play, but again Mr. Wilder got me thinking and contemplating on my own life after reading his work. I’d like to say, “Mr. Wilder, you did it again!” I am really in love with the works of an author who won three Pulitzer Prizes in his life; for The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927, fiction), Our Town (1938, play/drama), and The Skin of Our Teeth (1942, play/drama). I’m so glad that this play is the very first book I read in 2013 and I will be reading The Skin of Our Teeth for LRP event next July.

Our Town was short, simple, familiar. But it moves me in a way that I know I should read this play over and over again. When life gets too hectic and I need to “stop” for a while. I don’t want to be blind; I want to see the beauty of things, the beauty of every moment. That way I can give thanks to the Lord every minute of every day.

3rd review for Let’s Read Plays event| 19th review for The Classics Club Project| 1st review for Books in English Reading Challenge 2013

#bacabareng BBI bulan Januari 2013 tema pemenang Pulitzer

Book details:

Our Town, by Thornton Wilder
103 pages e-book (first published 1938)
My rating : ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


7 thoughts on “Our Town – Thornton Wilder

  1. looks like a novel than a play, but if it’s written in play I’m curious to sees the dialogue, must be really active and interesting. And much more simpler words than Shakespeare 😀


  2. This is one of my favorite plays…it does put life in the right perspective. I haven’t read any of Wilder’s other works…I need to do that. 🙂


What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s