Our Town Summary

Our town is a play based on the lives of the inhabitants of Grover’s Corner, a small town in New Hampshire. The play is divided into three acts portraying the different stages of these lives. The play takes place in a mostly empty space with little to no props. The characters pantomime their actions for the audience to fill in the gaps as they see fit. Throughout the play, the recurring character of the Stage Master talks to the audience and actively takes part in the play as well. The first act, “Daily Life” starts off with the Stage Manager introducing the audience to the town of Grover’s Corner on the morning of May 7th, 1901. The Gibbs and the Webb households, neighbors are introduced. Dr. Gibbs, on his way back home briefly chats with Joe Crowell Jr., the paperboy. The Stage Manager tells the audience about Joe’s success later in life along with his untimely demise. Dr. Gibbs also meets Howie Newsome, the milkman who’s delivering milk to his horse. Dr. Gibbs tells Howie about the twins he had just delivered and then goes into the Gibbs residence. Mrs. Gibbs greets him as she prepares to send her kids, George and Rebecca to school. Next door, the Webb children – Emily and Wally get down to have breakfast as well. After breakfast, both pairs get ready and leave for school. Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Webb, done with sending their kids to school, talk in the garden. Mrs. Gibbs tells Mrs. Webb how she got a very good offer to sell her highboy. She mentions her dream of visiting Paris as well and claims that her husband would rather be in a Civil War instead of going to Paris. Mrs. Webb mentions how her husband shares Dr. Gibbs’ love for the Civil War.

The Stage Manager appears and drives the women away to introduce Professor Willard, an expert on Grover’s Corners. He talks about basic facts regarding the town. He mentions that the towns’ population is mostly homogenous; all white, mostly Republican and Protestant. The Stage Manager then calls for Mr. Webb, the local paper’s editor who shows up late with his fingers bandaged from cutting it while slicing an apple. He talks about the “Political and Social” aspects regarding the town and then answers a couple of questions from predetermined members of the audience. Once done, he goes home. The Stage Manager proceeds to tell the audience about how it’s still early afternoon but then realizes that he had a bit of a misunderstanding and that it was actually later than he thought. Emily Webb speaks to her father on her way home from class when she sees George walking home from school. They chat about mathematics and Emily tells George that she’s going to help him out with Algebra. George tells her about how he wants to be a farmer and work at his uncle’s farm. Mrs. Webb comes out to the yard and George leaves for his baseball practice. Emily asks her mother if she thinks Emily’s good-looking. Mrs. Gibbs reassures her that she is. The play is interrupted again by the Stage Manager. He tells the audience about a time capsule that’s going to be placed in the foundation of the new bank in town. He talks about how he wants to have a copy of “Our Town” in there besides other issues such as the times magazine and the bible.

The day passes by and evening comes around as George and Emily talk to each other through their facing bedroom windows. Dr. Gibbs calls George down to tell him about how he needs to pull his weight around the house more and tells him that he will get a bigger allowance because of his increasing expenses. Later on, George sits with his little sister Rebecca staring out through the upstairs window. Mrs. Gibbs, Mrs. Soames and Mrs. Webb walk home from choir practice. They chatter amongst themselves on their way. Mrs. Soames brings up the choirmaster, Mr. Stimson’s alcoholism but Mrs. Webb and Mrs. Gibbs dodge the topic and part ways. Once home Mr. and Mrs. Webb talk about Stimson’s drinking problems themselves and Mr. Webb remembers that he had seen Mr. Stimson not looking so good on his way home. The act ends as Rebecca tells her brother about how the stars are like the “Mind of God”. The Stage Master reappears to announce the end of the first act.

The second act, “Love and Marriage” starts after three years on the day of July 7th, 1904. It’s a rather rainy day in Grover’s Corner. Howie Newsome, busy delivering milk, runs into Joe’s younger brother Si Crowell. Si talks about how George had a very promising career in baseball and perhaps would’ve been the best pitcher in the history of Grover’s Corners. The three talk about George’s upcoming marriage and eventually part ways. In the Gibbs household, Mrs. Gibbs makes arrangements for the guests after the ceremony. George comes downstairs and goes over next door to see his fiancée, Emily. But Mr. and Mrs. Webb are adamant about the bride not seeing the groom on the day of the wedding. Mrs. Webb goes upstairs to ensure that Emily doesn’t come down while Mr. Webb and George awkwardly talk about marriage and what it takes to make it as a good husband. Back home, Dr. and Mrs. Gibbs are worried about how George is going to support his to be wife. But they soon think about their own marriage and the hardships they had to overcome and realize that the kids are going to be okay after all.

The audience is taken on a journey to George and Emily’s end of junior year at their high school. George has become the new Class President and Emily, the Secretary-Treasurer. They walk home together while talking and Emily tells George how she thinks that he’s more interested in baseball than his friends. George, though taken aback, tells her that he appreciates the honesty but Emily gets embarrassed and apologizes to him. George reassures her that it’s fine. They get ice-cream soda from a drugstore and George talks about his plans. He tells Emily about not going to college and taking over his uncle’s farm and staying in Grover’s Corner and have a life with her. Emily tells him that she feels the same way and they talk about their lives ahead.

The play shifts back to the wedding where the Stage Master is the acting clergyman in George and Emily’s ceremony. George and Emily both feel jittery before the start of the ceremony but they calm down once they see each other. Mr. Webb tells George about how he approves of him before the wedding starts. The Stage Manager begins the ceremony and after exchanging rings and kisses the couple run down the aisle marking the end of the second act.

The final act, “Death and Eternity” starts in the summer of 1913. Throughout the last 9 years several characters have passed away and they’re seen at their graves. Among the dead are Mrs. Gibbs, Mrs. Soames, Wally Webb and Simon Stimson. They look at the living and talk amongst themselves. The Stage Manager briefly explains how the dead don’t relate to the living and how they long for something eternal. Sam Craig, Emily’s cousin who had left town twelve years ago returns to Grover’s Corner for her funeral. The funeral party enters the cemetery carrying Emily in a casket. Emily died during the birth of her second child leaving her husband with a four-year-old son. George along with his and Emily’s families mourn as they bury her. Emily joins her mother-in-law with the dead and tells her about the improvements they made to their farm. Emily talks about how she feels distant from the living and that she wishes to go back to the world of living to relive the past. Her dead companions try to dissuade her from doing but she asks the Stage Manager and goes back to 1899, the day of her twelfth birthday. Mr. Webb has been away for the last couple of days. Mrs. Webb is making breakfast downstairs; the milkman, the paperboy and the constable are talking outside of their house. Mr. Webb comes back with a present for Emily. Her deceased soul looks at the joy in little Emily’s face as she opens her present and it becomes unbearable for her to relive the past. She cries out that the living don’t understand the beauty of everyday life. She asks the Stage Manager to take her back to 1913, to the cemetery to join the dead. George appears at Emily’s grave and lies down on Emily’s grave crying. Emily looks at her grieving husband and says to Mrs. Gibbs, “They don’t understand, do they?”. She feels pity for him and everyone else thinking that they never take a moment to cherish the beauty that life is itself. The play ends with another day in the lives of the people of Grover’s Corner.