Thornton Wilder's beloved American Play, Our Town won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1938 and has influenced and inspired students across generations. Robert Corrigan, author of The Modern Theatre calls Our Town the "most representative and significant product of the modern American theater." Set in the fictionalized town of Grover's Corner, Our Town depicts the everyday lives, marriages and deaths of two families.
Suggested Course Use
Wilder is known for the ways in which he shaped modern drama, but it is equally as fascinating to see the ways in which classic drama shaped his work. It would be thought provoking for students to examine Our Town along with the techniques and themes of Sophocles and Plato.
Our Town employs a Stage Manager to both narrate the action and interact in a way that connects the audience to the characters. In Sophocles' Oedipus Cycle, he uses the Chorus to accomplish the same technique. In what ways do both the Stage Manager and Chorus exist in two different realities—those of the audience and the characters? What does Wilder accomplish by making the Stage Manager a single character instead of a Chorus?
In the end of Our Town, George mourns on the gravestone of his late wife Emily and her ghosts comments that the living "just don't get it, do they." Emily expresses that there is no sadness in death, a theme that can also be seen in Plato's Apology, in which he describes the last days of Socrates, who like Emily, comes to understand the nature of death. How does ghost Emily's opinion of death compare with Socrates' opinion of death while he is still alive? How does Wilder use the "ghost" characters on stage to make a wider statement about death?