Ourtown is Yourtown



by Shanoyu



"Ourtown", by Thornton Wilder. The title itself is representative of what the writer wants to convey. Ourtown does not mean the town of Emily, George, and the Gibbs. Rather, Ourtown refers to the small town in each of our hearts. The heart of the spectator, the most important collaborator in Ourtown, without whom, the play simply falls apart. Grover's Corners itself, the people, places, and events, is simply a symbol which plays into the mind of the spectator. They are simply symbols and refrences for our town.

Thornton Wilder begins the play with an introduction of the play. In his introduction the stage manager forces the audience to understand that this is play, and that they are in a theater, watching. He tells us that the characters are not the characters, but actors representing the characters. He informs us of what is where in Grover's Corners, and introduces some of the characters. This is Wilders first step in forcing the audience to become a collaborator. He makes the audience understand, explicitly, that they are watching a play, and he doesn't want them to forget that fact.

After the introduction, a conversation ensues between Dr. Gibbs and Joe Crowell Jr. The conversation is as generic and boring as it could possibly be as they talk about the weather and Joe Crowell Jr.'s knee. The conversations eventually fall into a generic morning at the Webb's and Gibb's. Thornton Wilder has now accomplished the second step in forcing the audience to become a collaborator. He makes the audience associate the standard boring morning of Grovers Corners with the mornings of their own lives, perhaps not right at this point, but here is where it begins to happen.

The conversations are obviously not important, since the stage manager interrupts them to ask Professor Willard to explain more about the town and the surrounding area and to ask Mr. Webb, the towns newspaper editor, about the politics and social atmosphere of Grover's Corners. Here, Wilder again introduces a stage of antirealism and blatantly encourages the audience to become a collaborator by having actors who are acting as members of the audience to ask Mr. Webb questions.

The audience is then exposed to another round of boring conversation which expresses a love intrest between Emily and George, and Emily wondering aloud to her mother about whether she was pretty. This exchange is interrupted by the Stage Manager, who once again reinforces the antirealism of the play and talks directly to the audience, and asks them what they think the citizens of Grover's Corners should put in the cornerstone, to make the audience a collaborator. He also mentions that he is going to put this play ("ourtown") in the cornerstone, and mentions the themes of the three acts. The combination of the direct, if rhetorical questioning of the audience, and the statement that the stage manager will put "ourtown" into the cornerstone forces the audience to briefly consider the themes of life, marrage, and death.

This continues thruout the play, although Wilder decides to insert some various wisdoms about topics like marrage and appreciation of your parents. This does not break with Wilder's generic writing, since he feels that these concepts are universal and constant. The combination of these concepts with the antirealism and generic feeling of the characters within the play is intended to make everyone feel like "ourtown" relates to them in some way. As summed up by Emily, who says, "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?--every, every minute?"(p100)

Grover's Corners, therefore, is not the small town that lies at 42 degrees 40 minutes latitude, 70 degrees 37 minutes longitude, but rather, it is the small town, big city, suburb, interconnection of lives, or community that exists in each of our hearts, pasts, and dreams. It represents not only any small town anywhere, but any place, existant or otherwise, intresting or not, it is the place that exists, to Thornton Wilder and many others, as the place that is often right just beyond our sight, but always in our hearts.


This essay is intended to prove that Grover's Corners, the fictional small town in Thornton Wilder's Ourtown can represent any small town anywhere. Here is the actual assignment as given to me by my English Teacher:

1. Write a 2 to 3 page essay that shows that Grover's Corners can represent any small town anywhere.

This essay uses the refrence from page 100 from the 1st Perennial Classic edition of "Ourtown, by Thornton Wilder" published by Harper & Row Publishers in 1968.

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