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Essays On The Book Our Town

An Analysis of Our Town

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It’s the little things in life that count An analysis of the representation of the daily life in Our Town * Table of Contents 1Introduction3 2Biographical Background4 3Our Town5 3. 1General5 3. 2Theme5 3. 3Publication5 4Analysis6 4. 1Act 16 4. 2Act 27 4. 3Act 38 5Conclusion10 6Bibliography12 6. 1Primary Literature12 6. 2Secondary Literature12 6. 3Webliography12 Introduction Needless to say, Our Town is one of the most popular plays by Thornton Wilder and not for nothing has it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1938. The most significant aspect in Our Town is the representation of the everyday life.

Not only does the play explores American values of religion or family, it also addresses themes like mortality or as mentioned before, the value of the everyday life. “Our Town is not offered as a picture of life in a New Hampshire village; or as a speculation about the conditions of life after death. It is an attempt to find a value above all price for the smallest events in our daily life. ” [Online 1] Life is often taken for granted although we are aware of the fact that life is short and that it can end at any time.

Many people do not take heed of their life and they do not pay attention to all those little things which make life important. “That’s all human beings are! Just blind people. ” (Wilder 1984: 93). Like Emily, a character of Our Town, mentioned, people are not aware of how precious life is. Therefore the main aim of this paper is to give an analysis of how Thornton Wilder tries to teach the audience through several messages implied in Our Town. At first, the term paper will tell about Thornton Wilder’s life, because it is important to know about his personal life when taking his works into consideration.

Wilder never stopped writing, even when he worked as a professor. Here we can clearly see a connection to his works, because especially in Our Town, as mentioned before, he tries to teach the reader or audience by pointing out how precious all the small things in life are and that the people should become aware of all those things. That means that he is not only teaching students on the university, but also the audience through his works. Secondly, this term paper will give some important facts about Our Town, which are necessary to understand the background and Wilders implied messages.

Then there will be an analysis on each act of the play based on the main theme, namely that it’s the little things in life that count. These analysis will mainly concentrate on the most significant aspects and parts of the play that carry Wilders implied lessons and messages. At the end of the term paper there will be a short conclusion including an own interpretation and opinion of Our Town. Biographical Background Thornton Niven Wilder was born on April 17 in 1897 in Madison, Wisconsin. He was an American novelist and playwright.

He wrote several stories, for example, he was asked to write the screenplay for the film “Shadow of a Doubt” by Alfred Hitchcock. [see Online 2] This was a major honour for Thornton Wilder, because during his lifetime, he was fascinated by Alfred Hitchcock. Thornton Wilder, amongst other things, also wrote the book “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” in 1927, one of his famous books, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928. [see Online 3] Literature played an important role in Thornton Wilders multi-talented family.

Although his father, Amos Parker Wilder, an US diplomat and his mother, Isabella Niven, were not that much into literature, some of Wilders siblings were famous poets or writers. You might say that Thornton Wilder were born with his literary talent. He early discovered his fascination for literature and therefore he began writing plays during his education at the Thacher School in California. His family moved to China in 1910, where his father had to work, and therefore Thornton Wilder had to attend the China Inland Mission Chefoo School at Yantai.

He returned with his mother and his siblings in 1912 and graduated from Berkeley High School in 1915. He began to study law, but he abandoned his studies only two years later. “After serving in the United States Coast Guard during World War I, he attended Oberlin College before earning his B. A. at Yale University in 1920, where he refined his writing skills as a member of the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity, a literary society. He earned his M. A. in French from Princeton University in 1926. ” [Online 4] After his studies, he began teaching at the University of Chicago, but he never stopped writing.

During this time his first novels and plays were published, for example, “Our Town”. This play is considered to be one of this most famous plays, and it also won the Pulitzer Prize in 1938, the year when the play was published. Thornton Wilder died on December 7, in 1975 in Hamden, Connecticut. He was an “American icon, and an internationally famous playwright and novelist. To this day, his works are read, performed and appreciated by audiences worldwide. ” [Online 5] Our Town General Our Town is a so-called “slice-of-life” story, which means that the reader is able to relate to the story.

He feels like he is involved in the play, because of its representation of the daily life and all those little things in life which makes it interesting. Theme Our town has a carpe diem theme. Translated it means seize the day, people should concentrate themselves on the little things in life which are often unappreciated. In some way, the play wants to teach the audience to bestow consideration upon the little things in life. Publication Thornton Wilders idea was to tell the reader to appreciate every moment of every day, not least because life is fleeting.

The play was first shown in 1938, in the big immigration year, when Europeans came to the US because of the second world war. At this time, the people were confronted with all those negative aspects of life and in some way we can assume that the play Our Town was shown at a perfect time: a time, when everyone wanted to escape reality to see something totally different. Or better said, to see how life can be and that’s the little things in life that counts. For Wilder it was important to teach the audience to enjoy every small thing in life and not to take life for granted.

It was the time of the American Renaissance and the notion of experimenting with the audience was getting more and more important. This time was characterised by extensive experimentation and originality. We can assume that the aspect of experimenting in Our Town is shown through the stage manager. Usually a narrator takes place in short stories and novels, but not in plays, but this is the case in Our Town. Analysis In the following analysis, the term paper will concentrate on the theme of play and it will show how the daily life in Our Town is represented.

It will point out how the play teaches the audience to take heed of the small events in our ordinary lives. The term paper will analyse each act with the main focus on the third and last act. The last act is the most important concerning the theme of the play. While the first two acts are telling the audience that it is real life, shown trough different moments in the peoples life (e. g. social acts like simple talking to each other, going to school or work, etc. ), in the third act reality is being discussed and the main theme is mainly shown through the this act. Act 1

The first act of Our Town is entitled “The Daily Life”. It is, in some way, a representation of the daily routines of the inhabitants of the small town called Grover’s Corner in New Hampshire. The act takes place on one day, namely May 7 in 1901. The play starts in a very unconventional way. The Stage Manager, who is the epic narrator in Our Town, is moving chairs and desks and the reader is for sure irritated about this. It is unclear if this is a part of the preparing or if the play has already started. It is almost like improvised theatre, because there are not many semiotic elements (this means no curtain, no scenery).

The set is very minimalistic, which means that the reader has to imagine a lot. Although the Stage Manager tells about what is going on, it leaves a lot to imagination. We can say that these are the first hints for the reader to concentrate on the important things. Before the Stage Manager explains to the audience how the town looks like and before he introduces all the different characters living in Grover’s Corner, the audience get their first hint concerning the main theme of the play: “The sky is beginning to show some streaks of light over in the East there, behind our mount’in.

The morning star always gets wonderful bright the minute before it has to go – doesn’t it? ” (Wilder: 1984:6) The Stage Manager describes to the audience how the day in the Gover’s Corner is beginning, and therefore he gives a full description of the wonderful processes of the nature. This is also called ‘word-scenery’, which “attempts to engage the imagination of the audience” (Nunning 2004: 98).

The audience is supposed to imagine how the stage and the town looks like as well as to pay attention to those things in life which are often unappreciated (in this case the wonderful imagination of a sunrise) The Stage Manager goes on and tells the audience about how the town looks like, thus he is describing different buildings of the town and tells to each of them a short story. There he also wants to draw the audience’s attention to things which are normally unnoticed, like the butternut tree. (Wilder: 1984:9) Then it comes to the introduction of all the different characters living in Grover’s Corner, like Dr.

Gibbs and his family, Joe Cromwell Jr. , who is delivering the morning paper, as well as the Webb family. In this first act the audience also get to know their children, George and Rebecca Gibbs as well as Emily and Wally Webb. Here the audience get a slight insight into social life and ordinary things, for example, Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Webb, who are preparing breakfast for their children and then are talking to each other in the garden. You can assume that it is just the beginning of an ordinary day in an ordinary life. The rest of the act gives the audience an insight into how a ordinary day in Grover’s Corner looks like.

It describes what the characters are experiencing the whole day. Act 2 The second act of Our Town is called Love ; Marriage. Three years have passed since the end of the first act and this act starts again with a word-scenery. “ … the sun’s come up over a thousand times. Summers and winters have cracked the mountains a little bit more and the rains have brought down some of the dirt. ” (Wilder 1984: 44) George Gibbs and Emily Webb are about to get married. Here the question arises why they get married and the answer is clearly obvious: they get married because they are supposed to. Almost everybody in the world gets married – you know what I mean? In our town there aren’t hardly any exceptions. Most everybody in the world climbs into their graves married. ” (Wilder: 1984: 45) This is a part of an ordinary life, and normality is constructed through the normal life in this society. George and Emily act in the same way as their parents did, they think that they have to marry, and therefore they fall into the same pattern: life is a pattern, and the play assumes that ordinary patterns have a high meaning in the society.

The audience also get an insight into traditions, for example, when George wants to see Emily, he is told not to, because a “groom can’t see his bride on his wedding day, not until he sees her in church” (Wilder: 1984: 53). It can be assumed that traditions are of great importance in this social community and that it is necessary to stick to the rules of the society. You have to pay attention to traditions and also superstitions, even if they are often misunderstood and unnoticed. Act 3

The third act, in fact, has no title, but because of the previous acts the audience can imagine what title the last act will have. Our town describes almost all the stages of an ordinary life and in the end people will die, because this is a part of a life. Also the Stage Manager tells in the second act “The First Act was called the Daily Life. This act is called Love and Marriage. There’s another act coming after this: I reckon you can guess what that’s about. ” (Wilder: 1984: 45). Therefore the title of the third and final act is Death. It is the concluding act of the play with a more darker and gloomy mood.

Here the Stage Manager again draws the attention of the audience to the often unnoticed nature by telling about the mountains and how everything has changed (or not! ) in the last few years. “You’d be surprised, though – on the whole, things don’t change much around here. This is certainly an important part of Grover’s Corners. It’s on hilltop – a windy hilltop – lots of sky, lots of clouds – often lots of sun and moon and stars. ” (Wilder: 1984:75) Nine years have passed in Grover’s Corner and the little town is in a change. While many characters have passed away, like Mrs.

Gibbs, there is another death mentioned: the death of Emily Webb. Concerning the main theme of Our Town, this is the most important element in the play. After Emily has died she has the strong wish to return to the live, because she is afraid of losing all her memories and to feel no emotions anymore. In this act, Emily is allowed to return to the day of her 12th birthday. Actually the audience is supposed to think that this moment was no special moment in her life, because Emily is also given the advice to choose one of the most unimportant days in her life, but appearances are deceitful.

Emily realised how special every moment of her life was, also all the moments on her 12th birthday, which were not important to her until she died. In some way she is really sad about the fact that she has not enough time to appreciate all those little things in her life she has not paid attention before. On her birthday, she had not taken enough notice to her parents and how young and beautiful they looked like and she did not appreciate her gifts she had received from her parents. She did not think about how her parents cared about her and how lovely their act of giving gifts was.

The sad thing about this is that Emily did not realised those things when she was still alive. She did not pay a lot of attention to these small aspects in life before she died. Here Wilder implies several lessons. He wants to tell the audience that people are often too blind toward all those special and great things in life. He draws the attention of the audience to Emily’s behaviour and how she regrets her way of living. It is like he wanted to say ‘Look! If you do not want to regret how you lived your life – change it! Otherwise it will be too late! At the end of the third act Emily wants to go back to her grave, she cannot stand all those lovely and precious moments in her life anymore, but before she goes back, she says good bye to the people she loves and to all the things in her life she did not draw attention to: “Good-by, Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover’s Corners … Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking … and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths … and sleeping and waking up. Oh earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever ealize life while they live it — every, every minute? ” (Wilder: 1984: 93) Here the question arises what is meant with especially the last sentence. It is in some way an implied message, namely that people do not appreciate the little things in life and that they do not pay a lot attention to every special moment. Only when they are dead they realise what they have missed in life and they come to the conclusion that they had better cherished all those little things in their life, such as nature or even, like in Our Town, a little birthday present.

The lessons implied by Wilder are clear: you only see what you really have missed in life when you are gone. Unfortunately, for most of the people this is a hindsight. It is, actually, too late to change something in life and maybe this is the saddest aspect of Our Town. You should think about your life and you should pay more attention to everything, even if they are petty. You should live every moment of your life as if it were going to be the last. Conclusion In my opinion, not for nothing Our town won the Pulitzer Prize.

It is an outstanding and remarkable play and still today we can learn a lot from this play. When reading Our Town (or seeing it on stage in a theatre) the question arises if everyone of us pays enough attention to the small things of life. You are in some way forced to rethink your life and to think about your personal way of living your life. I think that people sure do realise life while they life it, but most of the people often come to realise what life is really about when they experience critical events in their lives.

Those events often “wake up” the people and from that point on they try to pay also attention to all those petty things in life. Our town shows us how important life is and that it is, in fact, a fleeting thing and that we should make the best out of it. Life can end abruptly and therefore it is necessary to live every moment of our lives like if they were going to be the last. Otherwise we would surely regret that we did not appreciate all those important aspects in our life. The lessons implied are of great importance: You do not realise what you had in your life until it is gone.

We should live, love and surely enjoy life. It is important not to complain about our lives every day, because life is for sure a precious gift and we should be thankful that we have the possibility to live. In my opinion the publication date is also important when analysing Our Town. It was the time of the American Renaissance where the notion of experimenting with the audience was getting more and more important. The audience should be involved in the plays, and it was also important to draw off the attention of the audience from all those negative aspects of life. And still today this is of great importance.

Although time has changed, as well as the the living conditions have changed, we can still learn from Our Town and all those messages implied by Thornton Wilder. We should remember every time that all things must pass and that we should enjoy everything as long as it is possible. We should not only think about the negative sides of life, but we should concentrate ourselves more on the positive and more important things. It is important to keep in mind, that it’s the little things in life that count. Bibliography Primary Literature Wilder, Thornton (1984). “Our Town” [1938]. Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam jun.

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GmbH ; Co. Secondary Literature Beckmann, Heinz (1966). Thornton Wilder. Velber: Friedrich Verlag. Carnegie, Dale (1990). How to Stop Worrying and Start Living [1936]. New York: Simon and Schuster Adult Publishing Group. Harrison, Gilbert A. (1983). A Life of Thornton Wilder. New Haven: Ticknor ; Fields. Nunning, Ansgar and Vera (2004). An Introduction to the Study of English and American Literature. Stuttgart: Klett. Wilder, Thornton (1979). In: Donald Gallup, ed. American Characteristics: And Other Essays. New York: Harper ; Row. Webliography 1. ) “About the Playwright, Thornton Wilder”. Online]. http://thehipp. org/perspectives/04_05/our_town/wilder_bio. htm. [2009, January 12]. 2. ) “Thornton (Niven) Wilder (1897-1975)”. [Online]. http://www. kirjasto. sci. fi/twilder. htm. [2009, January 30]. 3. ) “Biography of Thornton Wilder (1897-1975)”. [Online]. http://www. gradesaver. com/author/thornton-wilder/. [2008, December 29]. 4. ) “Thornton Wilder”. [Online]. Wikipedia. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Thornton_Wilder. [2009, January 3]. 5. ) “Biography”. [Online]. The Thornton Wilder Society. http://www. tcnj. edu/~wilder/biography/frame. html. [2009, January 3].

Author: Brandon Johnson

in Our Town

An Analysis of Our Town

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Summary: This is an essay comparing The book Our Town to the movie Our Town.


Thornton Wilder vs. Hollywood

Hollywood has once again destroyed a great classic, this time the victim is Our Town. There were a few good points in the movie, but these points were greatly over-shadowed by the monstrosity of an ending and a number of small shortcomings throughout the movie. The viewer of Our Town would be lucky to leave getting nothing out of watching the movie.

There were a few good aspects of the movie Our Town. One of them is that they did a good job with most of the characters, specifically the stage manager. He fits his character perfectly. Another thing is that they for the most part stuck to the original script. Though these aspects of the movie were good they are outnumbered by negative aspects.

The main part of the movie that made it bad was the ending. Instead of having Emily die like in the play, they had her live. This was really bad because it gave the movie an "everyone lives happily ever after? ending. It also takes away the moral of the play. Before the movie the moral was that people don"t live life to it's fullest and don"t realize how wonderful it and the world is.

The other reason the movie was bad were small details and specific things. One of these things was the script. Though they did stick basically to the script they changed little things and took out some of the jokes. An example of this was when, in the play Mrs. Soames says, "Doesn't she make a beautiful bride"" and then George says "I do" but in the movie they don"t have any thing like that joke. Also in the movie I hated the character of George Gibbs. He was much too old, he was supposed to be 17, but he appeared to be 27. These are only some of the imperfections in the movie Our Town that helped to destroy it.

The play Our Town was wrecked by the eyesore Hollywood calls a movie. The few good points it had are easily outweighed by the "Disney" ending and frequent flaws in the movie. The viewer of Our Town takes away nothing worthwhile from this movie.

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