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


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The Stage Manager interrupts the current action of the play to present a flashback to the time when Emily and George admitted their feelings for one another. It is in the afternoon when Emily and George are leaving high school to return home. George has just been elected president of the senior class, and Emily has been elected secretary and treasurer. George approaches Emily and offers to carry her books, and she eagerly allows him to do so. He then asks Emily why she seems to be upset with him. She candidly tells him that he spends too much time playing baseball, ignoring his friends and family; she also accuses him of being conceited. George is surprised to hear Emily’s straightforward criticism and admits, “It’s hard for a fella not to have faults creep into his character.” Emily explains that she expects a man to strive for perfection. George claims that is impossible, for “men aren’t naturally good; but girls are.”

George insists that the two of them stop at Mr. Morgan’s store to have an ice cream soda as a celebration of their election victories; Emily agrees. When they go inside the store, the Stage Manager, now acting as Mr. Morgan, asks Emily why she has been crying. George lies and says that Emily has just missed being run down by Tom Huckins’ crazy driving. George then talks about wanting to become a farmer. He asks Emily if she will write to him when he goes to the state agricultural college the following year. Emily promises that she will, but she worries that he will soon become disinterested in her and Grover’s Corners while he is away. He admits that he would prefer not to go to college; instead, he would like to go and work for his Uncle Luke, a farmer. He will be ready to retire before long, and George feels he could take over the farm.

George admits to Emily that he has always been attracted to her. He always looks to see if she is attending his baseball games. He then promises her that he will try to improve his ways and hopes that she will become his girlfriend. Emily admits that she has always liked George. George then digs in his pocket to find the money to pay Mr. Morgan for the sodas. He is mortified to find that his pocket is empty. He tells Mr. Morgan that he must go home and get some money; he offers to leave his watch as insurance. Mr. Morgan says the watch is not necessary, for he trusts George.


The Stage Manager begins this section by making the audience realize how quickly time passes. He remarks that a person gets married at the age of twenty-one or twenty-two, “and the next thing you know is that. . .the white-haired lady at your side has eaten over fifty thousand meals with you.” He then goes into a flashback to the time when Emily and George were young teenagers, just falling in love.

The flashback is filled subtlety and innocence. George finally gets up enough courage to walk Emily home and carry her books; Emily smugly criticizes George for being conceited and not paying his family or friends enough attention because of baseball; George awkwardly admits that he has been wrong, but confesses that baseball has not gotten in the way of his feelings for her; George insists that he buys her an ice cream soda, and then finds out he does not have the money to pay for it; over sodas he talks about wanting to be a farmer and asks Emily to write to him at college; she worries that George will forget all about her while he is away; he promises that he will always care for her. It is a tender picture of young love in the making.

In the flashback, the characters of both Emily and George are developed. They are obviously natural leaders; he has just been elected the president of his senior class, and she has been elected its secretary/treasurer. George is also the star pitcher on the baseball team. Unfortunately, his success has gone to his head. Emily says that he has changed, acting conceited and ignoring his friends.

Emily, besides being one of the brightest girls in her class, is also popular, as evidenced by her election. George also says he has often tried to walk her home, but she is always with a crowd of friends. Emily is also an idealist. She says she is looking for a perfect man and believes that George can become one. Finally, she proves that she is honest and straightforward. Even though she is attracted to George, she bluntly tells him the truth about his recent behavior. It is obvious that she has felt a bit slighted by the boy next door.


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