Our Town

Our Town is said to be “The Great American Play,” (foreword) which makes me feel worse for not really liking it.

I know, I know. It’s “an allegorical representation of all life” (back cover). It’s super profound and stuff. But I still found it boring.

Maybe that’s not true. I did read the intro and parts of the afterword, where Donald Margulies discusses some of the cultural and literary impacts of this play. Our Town may seem cliche now, but like RUR, it was a pioneer of many of its conventions and subject matter, like the Stage Manager, the sparse setting and lack of props, and the talking, un-spooky ghosts of the third act.

I remembered being reminded of a book I read in middle school, Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, a double-story set in both the 1930s and the 1910s, and thinking how similar and much more interesting it was than Our Town. Simultaneously, though, I knew the conventions and situations in small town of Manifest were likely inspired by the treatment of the town of Grover’s Corners, such as making the reader care about every character and ending the scene happily, only to let the reader know how many of them died shortly after the happy “ending.” I can’t take for granted that so many of the historical fiction stories I enjoy today must owe their inspiration and success to Our Town.

And then, the whole deep “allegory” thing. Margulies compares Our Town to “It’s a Wonderful Life,” since they’re both touching stories of the everyman’s mortality and as American as apple pie. And I understand how important the moral of the play is, as bleakly told by dead Simon Stimson:

“That’s what it was to be alive. To move about in a cloud of ignorance; to go up and down trampling on the feelings of those…of those about you. To spend and waste time as though you had a million years” (109).

It’s the heartwarming and heartbreaking journey of an American girl who learns that life is precious and that gratitude for the little things slips a person’s mind until it is too late. It’s an incredible statement that transcends its time period and applies to those in the 21st century. It’s wonderful and beautiful and sad and tragic and ironic, and there are few people who love tragic, ironic endings as much as I do.

And yet, I still thought the play was boring.

Maybe I’ll like it better when I’m all grown up.

Source: Our Town

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