An Analysis of Our Town

Categories: LiteratureOur Town
Needless to say, Our Town is one of the most popular plays by Thornton Wilder and not for nothing has it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1938. The most significant aspect in Our Town is the representation of the everyday life. Not only does the play explores American values of religion or family, it also addresses themes like mortality or as mentioned before, the value of the everyday life. “Our Town is not offered as a picture of life in a New Hampshire village; or as a speculation about the conditions of life after death.

It is an attempt to find a value above all price for the smallest events in our daily life. [Online 1] Life is often taken for granted although we are aware of the fact that life is short and that it can end at any time. Many people do not take heed of their life and they do not pay attention to all those little things which make life important.

“That’s all human beings are! Just blind people. ” (Wilder 1984: 93). Like Emily, a character of Our Town, mentioned, people are not aware of how precious life is. Therefore the main aim of this paper is to give an analysis of how Thornton Wilder tries to teach the audience through several messages implied in Our Town.

At first, the term paper will tell about Thornton Wilder’s life, because it is important to know about his personal life when taking his works into consideration. Wilder never stopped writing, even when he worked as a professor.

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Here we can clearly see a connection to his works, because especially in Our Town, as mentioned before, he tries to teach the reader or audience by pointing out how precious all the small things in life are and that the people should become aware of all those things. That means that he is not only teaching students on the university, but also the audience through his works.

Secondly, this term paper will give some important facts about Our Town, which are necessary to understand the background and Wilders implied messages. Then there will be an analysis on each act of the play based on the main theme, namely that it’s the little things in life that count. These analysis will mainly concentrate on the most significant aspects and parts of the play that carry Wilders implied lessons and messages. At the end of the term paper there will be a short conclusion including an own interpretation and opinion of Our Town. Biographical Background

Thornton Niven Wilder was born on April 17 in 1897 in Madison, Wisconsin. He was an American novelist and playwright. He wrote several stories, for example, he was asked to write the screenplay for the film “Shadow of a Doubt” by Alfred Hitchcock. [see Online 2] This was a major honour for Thornton Wilder, because during his lifetime, he was fascinated by Alfred Hitchcock. Thornton Wilder, amongst other things, also wrote the book “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” in 1927, one of his famous books, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928. [see Online 3] Literature played an important role in Thornton Wilders multi-talented family.

Although his father, Amos Parker Wilder, an US diplomat and his mother, Isabella Niven, were not that much into literature, some of Wilders siblings were famous poets or writers. You might say that Thornton Wilder were born with his literary talent. He early discovered his fascination for literature and therefore he began writing plays during his education at the Thacher School in California. His family moved to China in 1910, where his father had to work, and therefore Thornton Wilder had to attend the China Inland Mission Chefoo School at Yantai.

He returned with his mother and his siblings in 1912 and graduated from Berkeley High School in 1915. He began to study law, but he abandoned his studies only two years later. “After serving in the United States Coast Guard during World War I, he attended Oberlin College before earning his B. A. at Yale University in 1920, where he refined his writing skills as a member of the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity, a literary society. He earned his M. A. in French from Princeton University in 1926. [Online 4]

After his studies, he began teaching at the University of Chicago, but he never stopped writing. During this time his first novels and plays were published, for example, “Our Town”. This play is considered to be one of this most famous plays, and it also won the Pulitzer Prize in 1938, the year when the play was published. Thornton Wilder died on December 7, in 1975 in Hamden, Connecticut. He was an “American icon, and an internationally famous playwright and novelist. To this day, his works are read, performed and appreciated by audiences worldwide. [Online 5]

Our Town General Our Town is a so-called “slice-of-life” story, which means that the reader is able to relate to the story. He feels like he is involved in the play, because of its representation of the daily life and all those little things in life which makes it interesting. Theme Our town has a carpe diem theme. Translated it means seize the day, people should concentrate themselves on the little things in life which are often unappreciated. In some way, the play wants to teach the audience to bestow consideration upon the little things in life. Publication

Thornton Wilders idea was to tell the reader to appreciate every moment of every day, not least because life is fleeting. The play was first shown in 1938, in the big immigration year, when Europeans came to the US because of the second world war. At this time, the people were confronted with all those negative aspects of life and in some way we can assume that the play Our Town was shown at a perfect time: a time, when everyone wanted to escape reality to see something totally different. Or better said, to see how life can be and that’s the little things in life that counts.

For Wilder it was important to teach the audience to enjoy every small thing in life and not to take life for granted. It was the time of the American Renaissance and the notion of experimenting with the audience was getting more and more important. This time was characterised by extensive experimentation and originality. We can assume that the aspect of experimenting in Our Town is shown through the stage manager. Usually a narrator takes place in short stories and novels, but not in plays, but this is the case in Our Town.

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An Analysis of Our Town. (2017, Feb 15). Retrieved from

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