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Our Town | Study Guide

Thornton Wilder

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Our Town | Character Analysis


Stage Manager

The Stage Manager introduces and closes each act, and he ends the play by pulling a curtain across the stage. He rarely interacts with the characters onstage, though on two occasions he plays small parts in the play; both are "authority figures." In his monologues the Stage Manager discusses both the future and the past. He introduces flashbacks in the action and informs the audience what will happen to some of the characters. The Stage Manager acts as a master of ceremonies as well as a narrator. In Act 1 he brings in two speakers to describe the geology and history of Grover's Corners. In Act 2 he serves as the minister at the wedding, and in Act 3 he watches as the town falls asleep, then tells the audience to go home and get some rest.

Emily Webb Gibbs

Although Emily, like the rest of the characters, is something of an archetype (a representative model of humanity) rather than a clearly defined character, her quick intelligence—and her pride in it—are the first things the audience learns about her. Her astuteness means she grasps the underlying meaning of Act 3 swiftly and thoroughly. Emily is also a perfectionist; in Act 2 she makes it clear George Gibbs is not living up to her expectations of him. Emily and George are archetypical characters who represent all young lovers. Emily's death brings her piercing insights about the meaning of life when she realizes people who are still living place little value on time and personal relationships.

George Gibbs

George is a nice boy and a talented athlete who nonetheless appears slightly less intelligent and less mature than Emily. As the play begins, he has saved up less money than his 11-year-old sister, and he fails to carry out the one chore Mrs. Gibbs asks him to do. He needs Emily's help with his studies; he needs her to set him straight when he gets too proud of himself; and when Emily dies, his grief causes her to ask, "they don't understand, do they?"

Dr. Gibbs

Dr. Gibbs first comes onstage after delivering twins, thereby introducing the play's motif of new and unending life. He is a homebody whose main outside interest is the Civil War and is a great expert on the topic.

Mr. Webb

Mr. Webb knows a great deal of local history. In Act 1 he is called upon to deliver a lengthy description of Grover's Corners. He is a somewhat inarticulate conversationalist, especially with Emily and George. His interest in Napoleon may be meant to contrast him with Dr. Gibbs, since otherwise the two men would seem almost too similar.

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