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MonkeyNotes-Our Town by Thornton Wilder
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Act II, Section 1

Summary

The Stage Manager watches the people of the audience return to their seats after the intermission. He then announces the beginning of Act II and explains that the play has skipped ahead three years in time. The day is now July 7, 1904, just after high school graduation. The time is once again 5:45 in the morning; in the background can be heard the sounds of the train bound for Boston. The Stage Manager next informs the audience that the second act is entitled "Love and Marriage." He then explains that in the last three years "a number of young people fell in love and got married. Almost everybody in the world gets married. Almost everybody in the world climbs into their graves married." His words are intended to be a foreshadowing of the death of Emily in the last act.

Starting the day, Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Webb enter their kitchens at the same time, just as in Act I. The Stage Manager remarks in amazement that these two ladies have "cooked three meals a day one of 'em for twenty years, the other for forty and no summer vacation. They have brought up two children apiece, washed and cleaned the house - and never a nervous breakdown." The Stage Manager then says, "You've got to love life to have life and you've got to have life to love life," quoting the poet, Edgar Lee Masters.


Notes

After the audience returns from intermission, the Stage Manager formally announces the beginning of Act II and explains that three years have passed since the last act. Significantly, this act, like the earlier one, begins at 5:45 a.m., and again the train bound for Boston can be heard. Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Webb come into their kitchens at the same time, also repeating the action seen in the first act. The repetition helps to mold the play into a unified whole. It also serves to emphasize the theme that things in Grover's Corners are ordinary and repetitive.

The second act is entitled "Love and Marriage." Since the beginning of the play, there have been multiple references to matrimony, all as preparation for the marriage of Emily and George. Joe Crowell, Jr. has complained that his teacher is getting married; Simon Stimson was preparing the choir for Fred Hersey's wedding. The Stage Manager has mentioned that Mrs. Webb has been married for twenty years, and Mrs. Gibbs for forty. He also expresses his amazement that the two women have raised two children apiece, completed their many domestic chores, and never had a nervous breakdown.

The casual quoting of Edgar Lee Master's line, "You've got to love life to have life," is in direct support of the central theme in the play. Wilder believes that people must appreciate all aspects of life, from the profound to the simple; birth, family, friends, growth, marriage, death, work, school, chores, food, and a thousand other things are important to living.

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