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Free Study Guide for Our Town by Thornton Wilder-Book Summary

 

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LITERARY ELEMENTS

 

SETTING

The setting of Our Town is crucial to the meaning of Wilder’s play, as indicated by the title. “Our town” really refers to Grover’s Corners, an imaginary small town located in New Hampshire, just across the Massachusetts line. By referring to the setting as our town, Wilder is indicating that the place has universal appeal; as an ordinary small town, it is filled with ordinary places, such as the post office, the church, the train station, and the school, and with ordinary human beings, just the kind most audiences can identify with. Wilder’s picture of Grover’s Corners, with its limited culture, intellect, and economics, spans the first decade of the 20th century, from 1901 to 1913.


LIST OF CHARACTERS


Major Characters


Stage Manager
An unnamed man who serves as the omnipresent narrator of the play. He constantly serves as the link between the actors and the audience, giving vital information, and also acts out multiple parts during the play.


The play revolves around two families, the Webbs and the Gibbs.


THE WEBBS


Mr. Charles Webb
The editor and publisher of the local newspaper. He is an important figure in the town.


Mrs. Myrtle Webb
Charles’ spouse. She is a devoted wife and mother, though at times nagging and overprotective.


Emily Webb
The bright-eyed, intelligent daughter of Charles and Myrtle. She marries George Gibbs, her childhood sweetheart, and dies during childbirth.



Wally Webb
The son of Charles and Myrtle and Emily’s younger brother. He meets an untimely death when his appendix ruptures on a Boy Scout trip.


THE GIBBS


Frank Gibbs
The town doctor. He is much concerned about the welfare of the citizens of Grover’s Corners. He is a caring father, but is not overindulgent with his children.


Mrs. Julia Hersey Gibbs

Frank’s spouse. She is a typical small-town housewife whose world revolves around her family. She constantly worries about her husband and children.


George Gibbs
The teenage son of Frank and Julia, who dreams of becoming a farmer. He is a baseball player and a high school hero. He marries Emily Webb, his childhood love, during the second act of the play and mourns her death in the third.


Rebecca Gibbs
The daughter of Frank and Julia and George’s younger sister. She finds her older brother to be a bothersome pest.


Minor Characters


Howie Newsome
The milkman, who rides a young horse called Bessie. He appears at the beginning of the play and again in the last act during Emily’s return to the past.


Joe Crowell, Jr.
The newspaper boy, who appears only in the first and last acts. He secures a scholarship to attend college at Massachusetts Tech. Unfortunately, his bright future is ended when he is killed in France during World War I.


Si Crowell
Joe’s younger brother who replaces Joe as the paperboy.


Samuel ‘Sam’ Craig
Emily’s cousin on her mother’s side.


Stoddard
The undertaker.


Bill Warren
The constable who conscientiously patrols the town and checks the drainage system.


Professor Willard
A faculty member of the state university who gives a boring account of Grover’s Corners geographical and anthropological history.


Simon Stimson
The organist of the Congregational Church. His waywardness ultimately leads him to commit suicide.


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