- Series: Perennial Classics
- Paperback: 181 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics; 1 edition (2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060512636
- ISBN-13: 978-0060512637
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (267 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Our Town: A Play in Three Acts (Perennial Classics) 1st Edition
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Pulitzer Prize-winning drama in three acts by Thornton Wilder, produced and published in 1938, considered a classic portrayal of small-town American life. Set in Grover's Corners, N.H., the play features a narrator, the Stage Manager, who sits at the side of the unadorned stage and explains the action. Through flashbacks, dialogue, and direct monologues the other characters reveal themselves to the audience. The main characters are George Gibbs, a doctor's son, and Emily Webb, daughter of a newspaper editor. The play concerns their courtship and marriage and Emily's death in childbirth, after which she and other inhabitants of the graveyard describe their peace. Considered enormously innovative for its lack of props and scenery and revered for its sentimental but at bottom realistic depictions of middle-class America, Our Town soon became a staple of American theater. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Thornton Wilder (1897-1975) was an accomplished novelist and playwright whose works, exploring the connection between the commonplace and cosmic dimensions of human experience, continue to be read and produced around the world. His Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of seven novels, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928, as did two of his four full-length dramas, Our Town (1938) and The Skin of Our Teeth (1943). Wilder's The Matchmaker was adapted as the musical Hello, Dolly!. He also enjoyed enormous success with many other forms of the written and spoken word, among them teaching, acting, the opera, and films. (His screenplay for Hitchcock's Shadow of Doubt  remains a classic psycho-thriller to this day.) Wilder's many honors include the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the National Book Committee's Medal for Literature.
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Top Customer Reviews
I’ve read, and even re-read Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey. But that is the only one of his that I have actually read, though I had seen “Our Town” produced, yes, in high school. I figured an actual reading of the play was long overdue. Donald Margulies has written one of the best Forwards ever, in terms of “drawing the reader in,” to this play, or any other. “Welcome – or welcome back – to ‘Our Town,’” as he concludes. He commences by indicating the reader’s first exposure was probably in late grade school, or high school, with portions of this play being sandwiched in an anthology with selections from John Steinbeck and Edith Wharton. Our opinions of the play have been shaped from the “school assignment era.” He urges the reader to re-consider now that they are old enough, with actual life experiences, to truly understand the inherent beauty of the play, and I would agree.
The town in question is Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire. It is the turn of the century – the LAST century… 1901. A small town, with a population of only some 2,000 plus. In the play, an additional two are added, since Dr. Gibbs delivered twins. Nominally, it panders to the longing of many an American, for a simpler time in our heritage, before “active shooter drills” became de rigueur. Purportedly there was a spike in productions of this play after 9-11. Occupations that no longer exist are depicted throughout the play: the milkman, the paperboy who walks from house to house, and even the good doctor, who makes house calls. A much more electronically disconnected, measured pace of life… where even the dog could sleep on Main Street.
In reading it though, there is so much more, just below the surface that make the play one that addresses eternal human concerns. The three acts each focus on one key aspect of life: daily life, marriage, and death. Wilder uses the “Stage Manager” as a “Greek Chorus,” omniscient, that informs the audience of the “befores and afters,” in a succinct, crisp, matter-of-fact New England sentence or two. That energetic newspaper boy, for example, would go on to be the town’s most brilliant student, graduating from MIT, but then he “died in France,” during the Great War. Nostalgia for the past is dampened with the knowledge that women would routinely die during child birth during these “simpler times.”
A few of Wilder’s observations on life are worth repeating (and remembering!): “All those good women standing shoulder to shoulder making sure that the knot’s tied in a mighty public way.” On fighting for one’s country: “Over there are some Civil War veterans. Iron flags on the graves…New Hampshire boys… had a notion the Union ought to be kept together, though they’d never seen more than fifty miles of it themselves.” And on fleeting life itself: “You know how it is: you’re twenty-one or twenty-two and you make some decisions; then whisssh! You’re seventy” you’ve been a lawyer for fifty years, and that white-haired lady at your side has eaten over fifty thousand meals with you.”
Oh, and that dog on Main Street, and nostalgia. He could actually sleep there in a prior era… BEFORE 1901, because the pace of life has been picking up, you understand. A good play to read or view, several times in life. 5-stars.
Thorton Wilder wrote "The Skin of Our Teeth" three years after "Our Town" in 1941. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1942. It is a very week play that feels a bit schizophrenic and jangled - there is no continual plot, but rather a series of observations about the human condition and some quotes from philosophers. In the introduction to this edition, Paula Vogel sums of the theme of the play better than Wilder wrote it: "we realize that the human race is perpetually caught in crises, but also perpetually surviving." There are a few decent quotes in the play, but no characters to love or despise or sympathize with. There are no real character arcs. If Wilder's name was not attached to this, I doubt it would have survived at all.
Below is my review for "Our Town", which has for some reason, had its entry also entered here under Wilder's other play.
Mr. Wilder won 1 of his 2 Pulitzer's in drama for his 1938 play "Our Town" (he also won a Pulitzer for a short novel). This is an outstanding play to see performed. It doesn't read as well as seeing staged (few do), but it still an excellent book to curl up with. That is a play a rate as 5 stars. Thr particular edition I reviewed form Amazon is outstanding, as it has a wonderful forward by the playwright Donald Margulies ("Dinner with Friends" and a Yale Professor), as well as an informative afterword, photos and advertisements of early productions and numerous notes by Mr. Wilder. Some critics find this play simplistic and sentimental, but it accurately captures small town America. It is brutal in its depiction of the randomness and tragedy of life. In Act I, we briefly meet a teenage boy who is delivering newspapers before sunrise. The stage manager comments: "Joe was awful bright - graduated from high school here, head of his class. So he got a scholarship to Massachusetts Tech. Graduated head of his class there, too. It was all wrote up in the Boston paper at the time. Goin' to be a great engineer, Joe was. But the war broke out and he died in France. -- All that education for nothing." There are many instances like that, including several outstanding observations in Act III. I won't spoil it.
If you are a fan of plays and attend the theater, you must have a working knowledge of "Our Town."