Our Town Analysis

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Arguably one of, if not the, greatest American plays in history is Our Town by Thornton Wilder. Our Town is representative of small town living and the everyday goings on in the town of Grover’s Corners, which its citizens often overlook. Wilder’s play can be analyzed as a tragedy through the use of Greek philosopher Aristotle’s Poetics. Aristotle’s Poetics largely focus on tragic drama and the components that create a tragedy. One can use these components: mythos, character, thought, diction, melody, and spectacle (Aristotle, trans. Butcher, I:VI) to evaluate the unique aspects which make Our Town such a classic example of tragedy expressed through American drama. Beginning with what Aristotle considered least important to a tragedy, spectacle,…show more content…
In this case, Wilder gives little acknowledgment toward music within Our Town. This is with the exception of the choir singing hymns during the wedding and funeral of Acts II and III, respectively, along with the playing of the organ during the wedding. However, Thornton Wilder used the sounds of special effects, such as the train and the factory whistles blowing and the clinking of milk bottles in Howie Newsome’s crate. The small details to melody, or what the audience hears during the play, give a big impact to how one visualizes what is happening during the play and sets the tone for how the scenes are playing…show more content…
According to the Poetics, plot is “the arrangement of the incidents.”(Aristotle, trans. Butcher, I:VI) A successful plot should only explain what is happening in the time frame of when the play begins and should end by resolving any unanswered questions in the story that the audience might be left with. Aristotle also states “Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is complete, and whole, and of a certain magnitude; for there may be a whole that is wanting in magnitude. A whole is that which has a beginning, a middle, and an end.” In Our Town, the plot begins in the town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire which is just like any other small, American town at the beginning of the 20th century. Mothers are bustling around, children are getting ready for school, fathers are reading the paper, the milkman and paperboy are making their morning rounds. However, Wilder gives complex stories to these typical characters and creates a unique story of tragedy that we all experience. Very little action occurs other than gossip amongst the neighbors; however, we are introduced to characters, the Gibbs, the Webbs, George and Emily, with which the story follows and whom the plot surrounds. The second act picks up some of the lack of action from the first with the wedding of Emily and George and their common anxieties of getting married so young, while the third act shows
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