Our Town is a three-act play by American playwright Thornton Wilder. It is a character story about an average town's citizens in the early twentieth century as depicted through their everyday lives. Wilder uses metatheatrical devices, such as the actions of the Stage Manager, to create the town of Grover's Corners for the audience.
“Our Town is a play which transcends differences in culture, class and race, and speaks to the great themes common to all great art: love, death and marriage,” Rayne said. “From its first production in 1938, the play struck a powerful chord with the American psyche, and it is as fresh and relevant today as it was then. I am hoping to bring a fresh perspective to this great classic and present a production that Ford's and Mr. Wilder will be proud of.”
Also in act one, after the choir rehearsal on page 532, Dr. and Mrs. Gibbs are gossiping about the town drunk. Dr. Gibbs says "I guess I know more about Simon Stimson's affairs than anybody in this town. Some people ain't made for small-town life. I don't know how that'll end; but there's nothing we can do but leave it alone." This shows that there is always someone that has things worse than you do.
The theme of the play has to do with the way that life is an endless cycle. You're born, you have some happy times, you have some bad times, and then you die. As the years pass by, everything seems to change. But all in all there is little change. The sun always rises in the early morning, and sets in the evening. The seasons always rotate like they always have. The birds are always chirping. And there is always somebody that has life a little bit worse than your own.
Little things in life are really big things. This theme points out that seemingly insignificant happenings in everyday life are actually among the most important ones. However, people experiencing them usually do not comprehend this truth at the time, as Emily observes in the cemetery when she says to Mrs. Gibbs, “They don’t understand, do they?
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.
The central theme of the play is based on the inherent goodness and beauty of existence and mankind’s failure to appreciate them. The theme is worked out by the structuring of the acts around the stages of life. Act I deals with birth and everyday life. The act is cluttered with ordinary people, daily routine, family relationships, and growing up. Act II, which focuses on love and marriage, continues to reveal the ordinary things in life. The third act centers on death in juxtaposition to life. It is only after Emily revisits the earth as a spirit that she realizes that humans fail to appreciate the beauty of life; they do not cherish the joys of birth, family ties, flowers, warm breakfasts, education, and thousands of other things that are taken for granted. Instead, they fret about the most inconsequential matters and fail to relate to one another.
In Our Town, love is centered on the family: marital love, fatherly love, etc. Love is an integral part of the characters’ lives, although sometimes they may take it for granted. The love that infuses their lives only strengthens the tragedy of death.
Even though there is the eventual tragedy of death at the conclusion of the book, this does not mean the end of the world. Everyone dies, but not everyone lives to the fullest while alive. If one's life is full of uncompromising love, death is something that should not be feared because they took advantage of life while they had it.
Our Town delivers a message for how we should live our lives: to the fullest. We should appreciate every moment because we never get a second chance. The play jumps from Emily’s wedding day to her funeral in the blink of an eye, emphasizing the idea that our lives are fleeting.
So much literature is about exploration and adventure, about discovering new worlds and strange societies. Our Town is one of the only works of canonical literature that espouses the opposite extreme: no one goes anywhere in the play, no one has an "adventure." The lesson that we learn is the need to be content with the traditional rhythms of life rather than go searching for something strange and exciting. Indeed, there is a vein of anti-exploration running through the text, reinforcing the old small-town motto that if you can't find your heart's desire in your own backyard, then it's probably not worth looking for anyway. Much contemporary theater put forth the same basic view, as we can see in looking at Hollywood movies of the day such as The Wizard of Oz, or, especially, It's a Wonderful Life.
Our Town is clearly a representation - and largely a celebration - of small-town American life. Nearly every character in the play loves Grover's Corners, even as many of them acknowledge its small-mindedness and dullness. Its sleepy simplicity, in fact, is its major point of attraction for many characters. Dr. Gibbs, for instance, who refuses to travel, thus cultivates his ignorance of life outside of Grover's Corners in order to remain content within it; his son, too, decides not to go away to college because everything he could want is available at home.
Of course this staunchly conservative position creates some of the major problems in the play. Mrs. Gibbs and her daughter have much interest in the outside world - Mrs. Gibbs would love to travel, and Rebecca innocently wonders about the moon and the larger world - and this desire to escape the confines of Grover's Corners puts them at odds with the homebodies in the family. Simon Stimson provides a more forceful negative example of the stifling effects of Grover's Corners: he turns to the bottle in order to escape the monotony of everyday life in the small town, while his "good Christian neighbors" turn a blind eye.
Positive and negative aspects of small-town living are presented in this novel. The community is very close knit and there is a loving, homey feeling wherever the characters are becasue of the closeness of the characters. The negative side of this kind of life style is the absense of outside knowledge. Being kept in this one small area leaves some characters wondering what else is out there.