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Our Town is a play written by Thornton Wilder in the mid-1930s about life in a town in New Hampshire at the turn of the twentieth Century. It tries to put across the point that all lives follow the same pattern: growing up, getting married and death. Thorton Wilder uses the modernist technique and approach to the play of having no plot in the play to give its "bore" factor. In the same way modern artists paint a dot on a blank canvas and call it "art" Wilder has made a play with no storyline and called it a "play."
Writing Techniques in the Play
- Sterotypes - Thornton wilder attempts to get across to the audience that the town which is portrayed to them is a typical town from New Hampshire in New England. He does this using a Stage Manager who introduces the town at the start of the play and gives information on it throughout the play.
“Stage Manager: Grover's Corners is a quiet place. Know what I mean. Nothing much goes on here. 'Cept the local Nazi party rally every month on top of Bunker's hill.”
“Stage Manager: This is mainstreet. Here's Dr. Gibbs' house. He's the local doctor. There's editor Webb's house - no need to tell you what he does. (Turns to editor Webb.) Mornin' Mr. Webb.
Mr. Webb: Man, who the hell are you? Get off my turf.
Stage Manager: (Turns back to face audience) Movin' on we have Mr. Andrews and his drug store. Why, I think I can see some young men running out the store clutching bags of heroine. Ah, here comes Constable Warren running as fast as he can along the street. My, he seems in a hurry and he's waving a semi-automatic around in the air. Here's the local Temple. Jedi, of course. Most of the population's either Jedi or Mormon. We have 94% Republican and 4% Democrat political support. That square over there is where we hold the annual George Bush fate celebrated on 9/11 of every year. And opposite the square is the local McDonalds and Wal Mart. There's Howie Newsom on the Wal Mart till. Don't know how he keeps goin', he's been workin' on that till since he was seventeen without takin' one day off but then I suppose that's how they keep up 24/7 customer service. Look, here comes Joe Crowell delivering the mornin' papers.
Joe Crowell: Mornin' Howie.
Howie Newsom: Grunt
Stage Manager: Joe's story's a sad one. He goes off to fight for his country in 1915 - with the German Yanks of course. He gets heavily injured in the Spring Offensive 1918. When Germany loses the war he becomes poor and impoverished and survives the Great Depression to join the Hitler Jugend. He goes off to fight in 1942 but gets killed when he's shot, by his own son who joined the Yanks - the ones supporting the Nazis - in a friendly fire incident.”
“Stage Manager: This is the graveyard in the Mormon cemetary on Bunker's hill. We got ancient graves here, going right back to the fifteenth Century. Up there's the Patriots' graves of 1776. They're coated with gold and topped with a giant cross. A few loyalist bodies were found kicking around the bottom of that ditch down there. So we dug 'em up and gave 'em a proper burial - in the Catholic graveyard. Hahahaha. Made us boys laugh for weeks.”
- The right attitudes to love and marriage.
“George Gibbs: But you don't actually believe in this whole marriage affair, do you Mr. Webb?
Mr. Webb: Well to be honest with you George I do but you see in our Jedi way we believe that marriage is the interconnection of two masters to produce a suitable padiwan so that one day we may find the chosen one.
Mitt Romney: Speaking from a Mormon point of view, Mr. Webb if you don't mind, I always say it ain't natural to go through life bein' lonely. People are born to go through life four by four, or is it six by six?”
“Emily Webb: My, George ain't the moonlight so beautiful. I mean don't you always think that the full moon is there to bring out all the secret's hidden in a person's character.
George Gibbs: A FULL MOON! Damn!
Emily Webb: My, George you've turned all hairy. George? George, GET OFF MY LEG. Why you're a werewolf!”
- Religious intolerance and how to segregate religion.
“(George and Emily are walking home from school).
Emily Webb: George there's something I wanted to say.
George Gibbs: Yes Emily.
Emily Webb: Well, it's just that you've been acting real strange these last few weeks.
George Gibbs: How so, Emily?
Emily Webb: Well, you know when we were at that Nazi rally the other week and you didn't salute Mr. Simmons the local Furher. And then afterwards on your way home, instead of spying on Mrs. Mary's garden like the Kamp Kommander told us to you went to play baseball.
George Gibbs: Well it's funny you should say that Emily but I think you've been acting weird too.
Emily Webb: But George a woman's not meant to be perfect. We can't be perfect its impossible.
George Gibbs: Well a man can't be perfect either.
Emily Webb: Well my daddy's perfect and he's a man.
George Gibbs: Well I know he's aryan but he's also a Mormon. My dad says only Jedi's can be perfect.
Emily Webb: But George, Mormon's are the perfect ones. Jedis are those weird people who believe in some magical force that they can only use for evil.
George Gibbs: But I thought Mormon's were those stupid people who don't respect the nature of the force and marry too many wives to feel its presense.
Mrs. Soames: Emily, George, come here now.
(Emily and George walk over to Mrs. Soames).
Mrs. Soames: Now I just overheard the last few lines of that conversation and I'm not very happy.
George Gibbs: But you're deaf Mrs. Soames.
Mrs. Soames: I can still read the script can't I. By the sounds of what you were talking about you were just on the verge of discovering why not teaching proper religious education in American schools has led to ignorance and disrespect of others' religions and segregation based on religious background. Now we can't have any more talk like that. You might spread the message among the general population and they might find out how the government is backing up its war effort against the Muslim states in the Middle East. Now I;m gonna have to report you to the local Gestapo authorities and they'll have to deal with you. If I ever see you again after that I expect proper behaviour from you both. Goodbye.”
- How to be a true American (Northern States Republican).
“George Gibbs: Uncle Sam's got a spare post I can fill when I leave school.
Mrs. Gibbs: What is it, dear?
George Gibbs: He says it's a placement as a stock broker on Wall Street.
Mrs. Gibbs: That's nice dear. Now eat your tea up right and good, Dr. Gibbs 'll be home soon and he won't want to see you up so late.
George Gibbs: But Mother Gibbs you're not listening. I want to be a banker and create a financial collapse in the market. Oh, Mother Gibbs wouldn't that be wonderful. And, Mother Gibbs, Emily could be my dodgey wife who has affairs with three other bankers and ends up causing a family disagreement which means I have to spend all my ill-gotten gains on court cases and waste everybody's time.
Mrs. Gibbs: Now, now George. I wouldn't get your hopes up too soon. To be able to be as good a banker as that you need to compete against everyone else in New England.
Rebecca Gibbs: What about the rest of America?
George Gibbs: Shut up Rebecca. No one from the South becomes a banker. They all become poor agricultural farmers who have to pay off the Northerners' debts through taxes when a recession hits. Besides they stiil live in segregation so they aren't allowed to be rich.
Rebecca Gibbs: But isn't not allowing people to be rich segregation in itself?
Mrs. Gibbs: Rebecca! How dare you insult the free, liberal Northern states of America for being segregationist. You know as well as we all do that the US can only be the most liberal, democratic and free country in the World if only half the population is allowed to have rights. Otherwise we couldn't afford it. Now go to bed. If your father caught you saying that he'd lynch you.
George Gibbs: But Mother Gibbs I thought the North doesn't approve of lynching anymore.
Mrs. Gibbs: Right both of you off to bed. We are going round to the orphanage tommorrow.”
"Our Town" the Movie
Made in 1958 with exactly the same plot. It was given a rating of 4.3 on IMDb thanks to a noticible lack of enjoyment experienced by the viewer during the film.
“I thought it was a great film, written by a great person. No plot to it though, which is a bit strange.”
Won "Best Play ever written without a Plot" twice in a row at the New Hampshire Theatre Production Institute. The only play to have been ever awarded such prize.
Biography of Thornton Wilder
Thornton Wilder was a bit of a troubled learner at school. He didn't really understand that the whole point of mankind is to change, move on and modernise and unlike many writers of his time who wrote about Man landing on the Moon and exploring space he just wrote plays about how much he wanted to live in New Hampshire in the early twentieth Century. But then he was a religious fundamentalist so that explains a lot.