Our Town

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Our Town

In the play Our Town, Thornton Wilder uses the commentary about certain social issues to further exemplify the point that the people of Grover’s Corner are really quite conservative and rather passive while they let life pass them by. The commentary of the people on a few issues such as suicide, alcoholism and religious faith show the people’s attitudes. A couple specific situations of a few people symbolize the perspective that the entire town has on the situations.

Religious faith is one of the issues used by Wilder. Most everyone in Grover’s Corner is religious, and a member of one of the churches in town, all being Christian in one form or another. They are also very conservative republicans that don’t like change. Mr. Webb, publisher and editor of the local paper informed the audience, “Politically, we’re eighty-six per cent Republicans ... Religiously, we’re eighty-five per cent Protestants ... Very ordinary town, if you ask me... But our young people seem to like it well enough. Ninety per cent of ‘em graduating from high school settle down right here to live.” The town’s people’s religion sets the standard for their morals and behavior in everyday life. Everyone goes about their daily routine day after day with a kind of faith that it will continue without changing unless they make the change themselves. When Emily is watching her funeral from above after she dies, she wants to go back to how it was and relive just another day of her life. “But mother Gibbs, one can go back; one can go back there again … into the living. I feel it. I know it.” pleaded Emily.

One of the issues used by Wilder is suicide. Since suicide is very rarely seen especially in a small town like Grover’s Corner, one would expect that the town’s people would attempt to keep it a secret. Joe Stoddard, the local gravedigger, was speaking to Sam Craig, a man who grew up in the town, about one of the head stones in the cemetery where they were standing waiting for a funeral to begin. “Hung himself in the attic. They tried to hush it up, but of course it got around.” The man was Simon Stimson, who had been the choir director. He had some drinking and emotional problems and didn’t see fit to continue on with his life. Though the people closest to Simon, and others directly involved tried to keep the fact a secret, news still spread around since something like that is always going to be news in a town like Grovers Corner.

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Another of the issues was alcoholism. At the beginning of the play it is mentioned that there is very little drinking in Grover’s Corner. Mr. Webb replied, “No ma’am, I’d say likker ain’t a regular thing in the home here, except in the medicine chest.” So when Simon is drunk while trying to lead a choir rehearsal, all of the singers notice. Afterwards they gossip among themselves about Simon’s drinking problem. Mrs. Soames shows her indignation, “To have the organist of a church drink and drunk year after year.” To which Mrs. Gibbs replies, “We all know about the troubles he’s been through ... if Dr. Ferguson keeps him on there in his job the only thing the rest of can do is just not to notice it.” If Dr. Ferguson, who is the head of the church, can look the other way then the people think it is probably best if everyone else does the same. No one knows what to do or how to handle the situation so they just ignore it.

The people in Grover’s Corner are conservative and don’t like change as shown by Emily’s unwillingness to accept the fact that she is dead and will never really be able to go back to how life has always been. They see people with problems and since they don’t want to interfere and don’t know what to do, they just sit back a watch and don’t do anything to help a fellow man get through a tough time. They’re common people who live common lives and don’t like change or interruptions.

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