Stage plays have occupied a fundamental part of the entertainment industry. It goes without saying that the playwrights explored the issues that they felt were vital to them and to the society at large. This was all in an effort to effect lasting change in the societies in which they lived. Needless to say, there were variations as to the popularity of playwrights, as well as their works. Nevertheless, Thornton Wilder came as one of the most popular playwrights in his times. While a large number of works may have been responsible for the popularity, “Our Town” comes as one of the most famous or popular plays of its time.
“Our Town” refers to a 3-play act and character story pertaining to average citizens of a town in early 20th century as shown via their everyday lives. It is set in a fictional community, in Grover’s Corners in New Hampshire (Wilder, 1938). The play is narrated by the stage manager, who is entirely aware of the relationship between him and the audience. In essence, he is free to break the wall and address the audience directly, something that he does on a number of occasions.
As much as the play does a commendable job in exhibiting the three different features of the life of an individual, it does not develop its characters adequately. In essence, the broad generalizations that the play implies unfairly label the readers into conforming to the notion that the author was critiquing (Lumley, 1967). Moreover, the play is extremely broad in its criticism of people’s lives, something that creates a deficiency of a clear message in the play.
In addition, the play presents the readers with a view of the characters that is limited by the time and what the stage manager can reveal to them. Only sufficient information is given so as to characterize the characters as commonplace in the contemporary American society. For instance, George is influenced by Emily to become perfect as the later expresses her options as to how men should be (Wilder, 1938). However, all characters in the play have been given sketchy descriptions and profiles. For example, the play mentions Rebecca Gibbs in only a few scenes so as to express some philosophical ideas while Simon is only outlined as a town drunkard who has troubles (Wilder, 1938). Overall, the reader is not offered in-depth knowledge about any of the characters.
Moreover, it seems that the theme chosen is way too broad to be effectively portrayed in such a short play. The play’s end seems incomplete as the playwright is ineffective at criticizing life. In addition, the play does not incorporate any other considerable themes. The play outlines the transience that characterizes human life by depicting the manner in which individuals rush via life (Lumley, 1967). As much as this may seem true since the characters do not stop to evaluate things pertaining to life or even to acknowledge the significance or importance of ordinary activities after death, this is an illusion that the playwright created through skipping between the time periods. It is worth noting that the Stage Manager passes over numerous years between every act to outline the three key stages pertaining to human life (Lumley, 1967). Wilder, by Splitting the human life into stages, oversimplifies life and does not acknowledge that the things and events that occur in between the acts are just as crucial as the events outlined in the play. The playwright’s words that, every moment in the life of a person must be treasured are rendered meaningless as he chops off the events that he feels are not as crucial.
Overall, “Our Town” does not capture the readers’ heart and mind, especially considering that it leaves them unsatisfied with the ending. The unresolved questions pertaining to the characters and the conflicting themes deprive the play of any coherent message holding it together (Lumley, 1967).
Wilder, T, (1938). Our Town: A Play in Three Acts. New York: Coward McCann, Inc
Lumley, F, (1967). New Trends in 20th Century Drama: A Survey since Ibsen and Shaw. New York: Oxford University Press