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

Summary

Emily chooses February 11, 1899, her twelfth birthday, as the day to go back and visit on earth. The Stage Manager reminds her of some incidents that came before her birthday. Her father had been away to give a speech at Hamilton College, where he had attended school.

Upon her return to Grover's Corners, Emily is delighted to see all the familiar buildings and people. She is surprised, however, to see Howie Newsome and Constable Warren because she knows they are now dead. She quickly turns her attention to her own home. Her mother and father are discussing Mr. Webb's trip and Emily's birthday. Mrs. Webb stops her conversation and calls her children for breakfast. Emily is struck by the youthfulness of her parents; she cries out, "I can't bear it. They are so young and beautiful, why did they ever have to get old? I can't look at everything hard enough."

A twelve-year-old Emily comes downstairs for breakfast; her mother instructs her not to gobble everything down just because she is excited about her birthday. When Emily has finished eating, Mrs. Webb gives her a present; it is one of her grandmother's outfits. She also tells her about Wally's gift. The spirit Emily does not care about the presents; she just wants her mother to stop what she is doing and really look at her twelve-year-old daughter for a minute as though she "really" saw her.

The spirit Emily breaks down into sobs, "I can't, I can't go on. It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another." Finding the scene too painful, she wants to leave. She asks the Stage Manager to take her back "up the hill - to my grave." As she bids farewell to Grover's Corners, she exclaims, "Oh earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize. . .Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?"


When Emily returns to her grave, the spirits have gathered in the darkness of night to enjoy the stars. Emily soon sees George arriving in the cemetery; he throws himself down at Emily's grave and weeps. Emily looks at her mother-in-law and remarks, "They don't understand, do they?"

The Stage Manager steps onto the stage as the faint chime of a clock is heard in the background. He reports that everyone in town has gone to bed; it is 11 o'clock in Grover's Corners. The stars are twinkling, probably because there is no life on them. The Stage Manager comments that everyone on earth seems to be straining themselves 'to make something' out of life. The strain is so bad that every sixteen hours they must lie down and rest. He states that the audience now needs to go home and retire for the night.

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