The Use Of Dramatic And Literary Techniques In The Play Our Town

The play Our Town by Thornton Wilder is about the town of Grovers Corner and the journey of George Gibbs and Emily Webb. Our Town was written in 1938 and is set from 1901 in the first act to 1913 in the third act. It shows the journey of daily life, love and marriage and the death of George and Emily throughout the play. Ideas explored in the play are community and proximity of the town Grovers Corner and the message conveyed is appreciating everything in life. To explore these idea, Thornton Wilder uses structure, magical realism and the setting.

A dramatic technique that was found in the play Our Town is the structure. The play is split into three acts that show a different time in a relationship and town yet the community doesn’t change. The first act is about the daily life of the Gibb and Webb family, their morning routine, type of family and the people in the family. The second act is about love and marriage between Emily Webb and George Gibbs and sees the discussion about moving and life after school and the influence the town has on this decision. The third act is about death and shows the afterlife of Emily Gibbs who died in childbirth and is her reflection on her life. Each act show the town community events and the comfort/routine within the town. The division of the play shows how overtime; the town stays as close and the support people give and relationship between families that have known each other for life. It also builds the storyline of George moving away but is stopped due to his love for Emily and love for the town that he doesn’t want to move away. This is the strength of the community in the play. The structure of the play explores the idea of appreciating everything in life by showing and sharing the life of Emily over time and the constant relationship between the town and everyone’s role stays the same.

A literary technique that shows the idea’s in Our Town is through the magical realism. This is an unrealistic characteristic or movement that is not seen as abnormal by the surrounding characters in the play. Magical realism is shown through Emily’s afterlife. Magical realism is after Emily’s death and her magical way of going back into her past for the rest of her afterlife existence. This major part of the play opens the idea that we do not show enough appreciation. Community is shown through the devastation of the town after Emily’s death and the proximity of the people in the afterlife with her, still showing their support. Emily has memories of her friends and family in the town and the excitement over her birthday. Lack of appreciation is recognised during Emily’s flashback on her twelfth birthday. She recognises that everyone is, “To be always at the mercy of one self-centred passion, or another”. The magical realism opens the idea that we should appreciate everything in life through unrealistic practices that Thornton Wilder has showed.

The last dramatic technique that explores the message that is given in this play is the setting. In act I, there are multiple settings which are the main street, school and the Gibbs and Webb households. In act II, the settings that are used are, the church, Webb household and the soda shop. Act III has the settings, the graveyard and Emily’s house on her twelfth birthday. The settings are all in the town and show the intimacy of the little town and that one event in one household becomes town news and discussion. The settings show how small the town is and how everyone has their own role in the town. Everyone knows Howie and only uses him for milk and Mr Gibbs is the only doctor that everyone is friends with as he is a major part of the town. The setting is important as the message of appreciation is due to the change in setting. The settings build the scenes that shape the recognition of Emily. The flashbacks require different settings and atmosphere to convey the correct messages, which Thornton has carefully recognised and provided.

The ideas conveyed in the play Our Town are that people must appreciate everything in life and the community and proximity of the town. Thornton Wilder did this through the setting, magical realism and structure of the play. The structure builds the facts that people cannot escape even though they have greater opportunities elsewhere, the setting creates the correct atmosphere and the magical realism play a part in the recognition of the ideas. The play is interesting and opens the readers’ eyes on new lifestyles and ideas in life. 

16 August 2021
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