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MonkeyNotes-Our Town by Thornton Wilder
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OVERALL ANALYSES

CHARACTERS

Emily Webb (Mrs. George Gibbs)

Emily is the main character of the play whose life and death is followed throughout all three acts. At the beginning of the play, she is a bright young student who is careful to excel in all that she does. She makes very good grades and has been elected as the secretary/treasurer for her senior class in high school. She is also very aware of her abilities. Without conceit, she admits, "I'm the brightest girl in school for my age. I have a wonderful memory." It is also obvious that Emily is a popular girl. George complains during the play that she is always busy and surrounded by friends.

As a sixteen-year-old girl, Emily has become interested in boys. When George approaches her and asks to carry her books, she is thrilled. She also eagerly agrees to help him with his algebra homework and to have a soda with him. Additionally, she uses the opportunity to scold him for not paying his friends more attention; of course, she is really concerned about him not paying her attention. Because of her interest in boys, Emily is also very conscious of her appearance. She asks her mother if she is pretty and complains about having to wear a plain blue dress to school. Another time she tries to walk as if she were an elegant lady.

Several times during the play, Emily is prone to romanticism. She tells George that she expects her man to be perfect, and then tells him that he could reach perfection. She also enjoys nature, taking time to smell the heliotrope and gaze at the moonlight. Her dreamy ways, however, do not get in the way of her being practical and helpful. She boldly tells George that he has been acting in a conceited way, hoping to change him. She also willingly helps her mother and is seen stringing beans with her.

It is not surprising that Emily chooses to marry George. She has grown up with him and always been attracted to him. On her wedding day, however, she is very nervous and unsure of her decision. Her mother admits that she is probably too young for matrimony and really knows little about life. Mrs. Webb hopes that some of Emily's friends have told her what is in store for her in marriage.


In the last act of the play, it is Emily who teaches the audience the theme of the drama. Dying during the birth of her second child, Emily is too young and unprepared to face or accept death. Unlike the older spirits who have embraced the peace of death, she longs to return to earth and the familiar things in Grover's Corners; she misses her husband and her four-year-old son. As a result, she decides she will go back to her hometown; she chooses to relive her twelfth birthday. The journey back is a horrible mistake. As she watches herself as a twelve-year-old girl, she realizes how she and her family had no appreciation of life. They took everything for granted. Disillusioned by this callous disregard for the wonders of living, Emily bids farewell to Grover's Corners to return to the peace of her grave. In the process, she teaches the audience to appreciate everything in life - the ticking of a clock, the smell of a sunflower, the wonder of a mother's love, and a thousand other little things taken for granted each day.

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