Guid Essay

Guid Essay

Dramatic and Literary Techniques Used by Thornton Wilder in the Play ‘Our Town’ – Free Essay Example

The author Thornton Wilder uses dialogue in the play ‘Our Town’. There is a lot left to the imagination as the sets are simple and throughout the acts, the narrative provided by the Stage Manager sets the scene in what is known as the dream play technique.

The stage set is very basic with only a few props, table and chairs, the audience is left to conjure up the scenery from their imagination. Wilder does this on purpose to lead the audience not to be distracted and focus on the details of life. Using the dream-play technique in which there exists no stable place and time, Wilder captures generality of human emotions.

The play is about life structured over three days. It begins at dawn when the sun rises and the town wakes up and ends with the dead in the cemetery. The repetition of the sun’s cycle parallels the life cycle however the human lifespan is not as long as the suns, and on death a person does not rise again. Human reproduction provides hope however and this is depicted in both Act I and II with the birth of twins, and birth of Emily’s second child. Significantly in Act II, Emily dies in childbirth however the circle of life continues with her children.

Throughout the play, the dialogue flows. For example, as the Stage Manager describes the cemetery, he comments on patriotism: “New Hampshire boys. had a notion that the Union ought to be kept together… And they went and died about it”. Later, as he looks toward the close, he comments, “Most everybody’s asleep in Grover’s Corners”.

Wilder’s use of poetic imagery throughout the play is carefully balanced with the subject matter. Many of the images derive from nature, mainly rural life. Mrs. Webb says, “If it were a snake, it would bite you”, when describing the location of Emily’s blue hair ribbon. Mr. Webb comments on the social aspect of Grover’s Corners by likening the situation to the separation of cream from milk “I guess we’re all hunting like everybody else for a way the diligent and sensible can rise to the top and the lazy and quarrelsome can sink to the bottom”.

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Wilder has structured the play into three acts, representing the human lifecycle. Birth in Act I, marriage in the second act, and death in the last act. Act I opens with the birth of the day, dawn, as well as the birth of twins. He also shows the birth of friendship, with Emily and George becoming friends. The Stage Manager is the most important person in the whole play as he provides a narrative, who delivers and acts small character parts and becomes the cue for concepts, imagination and themes. He delivers each of the main characters as literary creations, symbolic of normal boy, girl relationships.

The whole play is a pleading by Wilder for viewers to enjoy life to its fullest. In the last act, he notes that most people live their lives without appreciating the small, insignificant moments. Emily’s final comment is: “Do any human beings ever realize life while the live it? The small things in life only become important when death takes them away. So, in death, everyone finally appreciates life”.

Wilder presents the theme by showing the audience what they may consider every day, boring aspects of life. Act I shows acts of living like preparing breakfast, returning from work, the paperboy, the milkman and human interactions. He presents these scenes from life as entertainment, as lessons.

These scenes of day-to-day life of ordinary people are then built on through the play and revisited. Each scene shows different normal everyday activities. The activities happen with repetition, without thinking, as if on autopilot. Most people do not appreciate that time will pass so fast. As a person gets older, they start to see more value in the little moments, mainly as they have already have started to lose things they can’t get back, the raising of children, time with parents and realize how little they really valued them at the time. After death, they are gone forever. Wilder forces the audience to reverse their initial preconception of what is important in life by highlighting that they would have originally perceived as the everyday and insignificant. Thus, he concludes that it is not the large events but the trivialities that become meaningful.

‘Our Town’ represents any small town, performed on a mental stage conjured up in the mind, showing glimpses of human interaction, that make us think about what makes life worth living — in any setting, in any time.

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