Thornton Wilder’s Our Town Teaches You to Appreciate Life

Recently, I re-read Thornton Wilder‘s Our Town. I read this play when I was in high school. But like most teenagers, I never really paid attention to it. I rediscovered Our Town by watching an episode of My So Called Life on Netflix. Rayanne, Angela Chase‘s party animal of a friend, tries out for their high school production of Our Town and is cast as Emily and delivers a remarkable performance. It was a tear-jerker.

Synopsis of Our Town

Our Town is introduced and narrated by the Stage Manager who welcomes the audience to the fictitious town of Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire on a May morning in 1901. The stage is sparse and the Stage Manager introduces the characters; they pantomime their activities and chores throughout the play. The ‘big event’ of George Gibbs and Emily Webbs wedding happens in Act II. The ‘bigger event’ of Emily’s death in childbirth happens in Act III. The audience sees the town gathered in the cemetery for Emily’s funeral. They also see the deceased residents of Grover’s Corners at the funeral who try to warn Emily not to go back and observe her childhood. Emily realizes they were right after she sees her and her family and how they really weren’t ‘present’ in each other’s lives.

What Our Town Can Teach You about Life

It’s in Act III where Emily realizes that the residents of Grover’s Corner don’t realize life while living it. They hurry through their days without noticing what’s happening around them; they brush-off their children because they’re too busy preparing meals or cleaning. They don’t stop to savor their food and drink, clothing, sleeping, etc. They won’t know how much they missed until they die and then it will be too late.

Today, most people waste time in various ways from being couch potatoes to hurrying about from one place to the other. They play video games instead of getting outside in the sunshine and exercising. They waste time worrying about this and that; they waste time being lazy. To quote Simon Stimson, “they move about in a cloud of ignorance; to go up and down trampling on the feelings of those … of those about you. To spend and waste time as though you had a million of years.” I couldn’t have said it better.

Our Town may have been published in 1938, but its message is applicable today. If people don’t realize what a precious gift life is, they’ll have regrets on their deathbed. They’ll have wished they did this or that; wished they would have taken more risks; wished they would have taken a job opportunity in another state or country; and so forth. Don’t allow this to happen to you! Pickup a copy of Our Town and learn from the people in Grover’s Corners. Allow Emily’s spirit to teach you that life is in the here and now. Once it’s gone, that’s it. There’s no coming back and rejoining the human race.

Amandah

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