Our Town Study Guide

Our Town Study Guide

Original title:
Our Town: A Play in Three Acts

The play by Thornton Wilder is very interesting because it is literally a play within a play. The events of the book are happening on stage in a theater of the small town of Grover’s Corners. The best way to get acquainted to this play is to actually watch it in the theater - this will give you the authentic feeling of presence inside the plot and completely break the fourth wall between the characters and the audience. Still, as the book, “Our Town” is also quite enjoyable.

At first we learn about the history and daily life of the town - so average, that it can fit into the description of a rural Everytown all over the United States. The life there is peaceful and it seems that nothing important will ever happen there: a wedding is the major event that is discussed so intensely that we understand that it is really the biggest source of emotions that can wake Grover’s Corners from its sleep.

But the third act presents to us the other side of the life of any Everytown in the world. The existential questions asked and solved there can better fit the mystery play than the description of a plain town. Emily, one of the heroines of the story, is now passing the important stage of her life and her decisions can determine her eternity. The shift from the mundane to miraculous and great is so tremendous that it creates a feeling of a play within a play within a play - like the life of Grover’s Corners was only a theatrical decoration for the real drama of Life and Death that happens in the life of every person.

The very description of the play style the author recommends - like mimicking the objects actors interact with and using as few scenery as possible - creates a surreal feeling that allows the audience to dissolve in the plot and forget about the difference between their real life and the events that are happening on stage. This makes “Our Town” a truly unique play that is worth watching and reading.

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