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"Oh, Earth, you're just too wonderful for anyone to realize you!"—Emily
Emily: Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?
Stage Manager: No - saints and poets maybe - they do some.
Our Town is a three act play written by Thornton Wilder in 1938, set in the fictional community of Grover's Corners.
Through the actions of the Stage Manager, the town of Grover's Corners is created for the audience and scenes from its history between the years of 1901 and 1913 play out. There is minimal scenery, and nearly all of the props are pantomimed.
Our Town follows a few of the major characters through the important days of their lives. The first act, "A Day in the Life", introduces George Gibbs and Emily Webb, their families, and several other Grover's Corners inhabitants as they go through a typical day in their lives. The second act, "Love and Marriage", illustrates George and Emily's budding romance and eventual marriage. The third act, "Death", plays through a funeral.
- Absent Aliens: According to the Stage Manager. "There are the stars -- doing their old, old crisscross journeys in the sky. Scholars haven't settled the matter yet, but they seem to think there are no living beings up there. Just chalk...or fire. Only this one is straining away, straining away all the time to make something of itself."
- The Alcoholic: Simon Stimson.
- Arranged Marriage: George's parents.
- Close Knit Community: Grover's Corners.
- Daddy's Girl: Emily.
- Death by Childbirth: Emily; Justified because it really was common back in 1913.
- Downer Ending
- Driven to Suicide: Simon Stimson
- Engaging Conversation: Emily and George
- Everyone Went to School Together: Justified in that it is a small town with only one school.
- Fate Worse Than Death: After death, you can revisit moments in your life. But doing so will just make you realize (more) how you and everyone you love wasted (in the case of those still alive, is still wasting) their lives.
- Gainax Ending: The first two acts are a Slice of Life romance, and the brief third act shows us that Life is meaningless, everything will be forgotten, and that you will sit on a grave for eternity. It's all done in a very surreal manner, and has several characters acting completely differently to show the effects of such a bleak fate.
- Gender Neutral Narrator: The Stage Manager's gender is unspecified.
- Girl Next Door: Emily, to George.
- Happily Married: George's parents, Emily's parents, Emily and George.
- High School Sweethearts: Emily and George.
- Interactive Narrator: the Stage Manager.
- Jerk Jock: George almost becomes one.
- Meaningful Funeral: Emily's.
- Men Don't Cry: Subverted by George at Emily's funeral.
- Mental Time Travel: Emily.
- No Fourth Wall: For the Stage Manager, his on-stage guests, and the question-and-answer session in the first act.
- The Nothing After Death: There is no Heaven. There is no Hell. Every spirit, good and bad, is stuck together, sitting on their tombstone for all eternity. And even though you are given Mental Time Travel powers that let you relive any day of your life, all this does is further drive home to you how much of your life was wasted until you become a cold, emotionless shell of the person you were.
- Except not quite. The dead are waiting "for the eternal part in them to come out clear." This is mentioned a couple times. The obvious interpretation is that the Rapture is on its way and the good folk will someday leave the graveyard to chill with Jesus in heaven.
- Or else it's purgatorial.
- Runaway Bride: Emily almost becomes one before her father calms her down.
- Slice of Life: The first act of the play centers around this.
- This Loser Is You: The pessimistic way to interpret the play's ending: You do not (and as per the quotes above, possibly can not) adequately appreciate each moment of your life. (Optimistically, it's just an Aesop about appreciating your life more, but that doesn't really fit with how depressing that ending is.)
- Victorious Childhood Friend: Emily and George.
- Wedding Day: Act II.
- You Can't Fight Fate