The Importance of Our Town’s Narrator
In many books, movies, or plays, a writer sometimes includes an outside perspective aside from the perspectives of the main characters, that of someone who recalls specific details or events of that storyline. Generally in these stories, this is known as a narrator but in the play Our Town this is known as the Stage Manager. In Thornton Wilder’s masterpiece, the Stage Manager acts as a narrator and one of the most important characters of the play; revealing history of the town, foreshadowing of the story and providing insight on the setting. The Stage Manager is the most important character in the play due to all the information he provides for the audience, which helps viewers to understand the play and helps to put it in perspective for them.
In the beginning of this play, the Stage Manager introduces the small town of Grover’s Corners which according to him is in New Hampshire. One of the main reasons this character is the most important person in the play is because he introduces the setting. He does this by explaining to the audience directly, “The First Act shows a day in our town. The day is May 7, 1901. The time is just before dawn. The sky is beginning to show some streaks of light over in the East there, behind our mount’in” (Wilder 5). Without the Stage Manager in the beginning of each scene, the audience wouldn’t know what was happening where or when. Each scene introduction provides the audience with vital information in order for the audience to clearly be able to understand Our Town and be able to paint a mental picture of what is being described. The description of the setting in the second scene helps the audience in getting a vivid picture of what Gover’s Corners looks like from what the Stage Manager is saying, “It’s three years later. It’s 1904. It’s early morning only this time it’s been raining. It’s been pouring and thundering. Mrs. Gibbs’ garden, and Mrs. Webb’s here: drenched. All those bean poles and pea vines: drenched. All yesterday over there on Main Street, the rain looked like curtains being blown” (Wilder 47). Describing the setting and helping the audience paint a mental image is why the Stage Manager is the most important character in the play, especially to the audience. Without the scene transitions the Stage Manager describes, the transition between scenes would be awkward.
Descriptive scene introductions aren’t the only reason the Stage Manager is important. Another reason to why the Stage Manager displays prominent importance over other characters is due to the fact he provides foreshadowing of events throughout the entire play. During the first scene, when Joe Crowell Junior is delivering papers and has a conversation with the Stage Manager, afterwords the Stage Manager informs us of how intelligent and bright Joe’s future was but then confesses, “Goin’ to be a great engineer, Joe was, But the war broke out and he died in France” (Wilder 9). The Stage Manager also foreshadows the death of Mrs. Gibbs by sharing, “Mrs. Gibbs died first-long time ago, in fact. She’s up in the cemetery there now –in with a whole mess of Gibbses and Herseys,” this foreshadowing prepares the audience to see her in the final act of the play in the cemetery with Emily (Wilder 7).
Besides foreshadowing, the Stage Manager is proven to be a very useful resource to the audience when it comes to background information on Grover’s Corner. He discusses things and people in town that aren’t even quite relevant to the main characters, but build a history of the town and paint the image of a wholesome tight knit community. He discusses one of Doc Gibbs’ cases in the first scene, “The only lights on in town are in a cottage over by the tracks where a Polish mother’s just had twins,” showing his overall knowledge of everyone and everything in the town. The Stage Manager introduces a Professor from the Our Town University named Professor Willard and Editor of Grover’s Corner Sentential, Mr. Webb, to educate the audience regarding the towns history. Mr. Webb is direct with the audience, briefing them on general break down of the town explaining, “All males vote at the age of twenty-one. Women vote indirect. We’re lower middle class: sprinkling of professional men … ten per cent illiterate laborers. Politically, we’re eighty-six per cent Republicans; six per cent Democrats; four per cent Socialists; rest, indifferent. Religiously, we’re eighty-five per cent Protestants; twelve per cent Catholics; rest, indifferent” (Wilder 25). The Stage Manager acknowledges his expertise of the town and it’s history, and excuses it by saying, “In our town we like to know the facts about everybody” (Wilder 7). Yet again, the background information the Stage Manager proves his significance and provides gives the audience an important insight of the town and people so the audience can establish a feeling of realism while reading or watching Our Town.
A final reason that the Stage Manager emerges as the most important character in this play is because he pulls the audience into the play which helps the understand the underlying messages of Our town. The main message of this play is that people take life for granted while alive and after they pass they realize how much life is wasted sulking over petty things in life. The character of the Stage Manager is seen helping another primary character named Emily through her recent death while giving child birth. When she asks the dead if she will be able to go back and relive her best memories but the Stage Manager explains, “You not only live it; but you watch your self living it. And as you watch it, you see the thing that they-down there-never know. You see the future. You know what’s going to happen afterward” (Wilder 99).
The Stage Manager proves to be the most important character in the play Our Town due to all the helpful information he provides the audience with during the production. The history he provides along with foreshadowing of events and overall general help to the audience, really illustrates how prominent the character of the Stage Manager is. Without the Stage Manager, the play would confuse the audience and it would be hard to understand the literacy aspects behind it, proving that the Stage Manager is the most important character in Thornton Wilder’s famous play Our Town.
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