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MonkeyNotes-Our Town by Thornton Wilder
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Act I, Section 3

Summary

The Stage Manager introduces the audience to Mr. Willard, who teaches at the State University. The professor proceeds to give a meticulous, but boring, account of the geological and anthropological history of Grover's Corners. When he states that the population of the town is 2,640, he is corrected by the Stage Manager, who tells him that the population has just increased by two new additions.

The Stage Manager next introduces Mr. Webb, the publisher and editor of the local newspaper. He gives a statistical account of the political and religious leanings of the town; his findings show that most citizens belong to the lower middle class, 86% of the people are Republicans, 85% are Protestants, and 90% of the young people choose to settle in Grover's Corners. The Stage Manager throws open the floor for the audience to ask questions of Mr. Webb. One woman wishes to know if there is much drinking in the town; another man wants to know whether the town is aware of social injustice and industrial inequality; and one lady wants to know if there is any culture and love of beauty in Grover's Corners. Mr. Webb replies that there is not much drinking in the town, the citizens are not too concerned about social disparities, and there is limited culture.

The Stage Manager next skips forward to early afternoon when the children are returning from school. George catches up with Emily and asks her to help him with his algebra homework. He jokingly says that they should set up a telegraph system between their windows since he needs so much help. He then compliments Emily on her intelligence. She modestly replies that it is nothing special; it is just the way a person is born. Before he leaves for baseball practice, George talks to Emily about his dream of becoming a farmer.


When Emily arrives at home, she helps her mother to string the beans. As she works, she asks her mother if she is pretty. With practicality, her mother declares that she is "pretty enough for all normal purposes." The Stage Manager passes by and waves to them. He then proceeds to talk about the new bank building, which is being contracted by Cartwrights. He lists the items that are to be enclosed in its cornerstone. The Stage Manager thinks that a copy of Our Town should be included; it would give a good picture of how the local residents grew up, got married, and died. In the background, the church choir can be heard singing an appropriate hymn: "Blessed be the tie that binds our hearts in human love." At the end of the hymn, Simon Stimson, the choir director, says that music came into the world to give pleasure. He then suggests that the choir, which includes Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Webb, needs to sing more softly. He also asks how many of them can sing at Fred Hersey's wedding.

Two ladders are propped on stage to denote the second story of the houses of the Gibbs and Webbs. George and Emily are seen climbing the ladders and beginning their homework. George soon calls Emily for help with a math problem. After explaining how to work the algebra, Emily draws his attention to the lovely moonlight. In the distance, there is the faint rumbling of a train on its way to Contoocook. Later in the evening, Mr. Gibbs is seen fussing at George for his irresponsible behavior and his failure to help Mrs. Gibbs with the chores. He does, however, agree to raise George's allowance from twenty-five to fifty cents a week since he is getting older. In return, he is expected to help his mother more.

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