Our Town

May 24, 2010
In the play Our Town, Thornton Wilder is making a point about detail; the specific point is that people become overwhelmed with detail over the course of their lives and decline to appreciate it. This is evident when recalling Rebecca’s immense interest in the detailed envelope, but Emily’s failure to recognize the importance of her 12th birthday. Details are often overwhelming, but do they truly bring a waste to life? Details are anything but a waste. The very details that Thornton Wilder intentionally brushes aside in the play are something unique; they are delightful and exquisite. Details are the true definition of life.

Learning to be grateful in such a detailed and intricate world is a life lesson. Wilder’s play Our Town addresses the life lesson and seeks to teach it. Detail is something to learn and appreciate; it is anything but worthless. In the play, details are portrayed to be something that takes away from the simple and important things in life; however, Wilder purposefully does this to depict the actual importance of the details and small events that occur in everyone‘s lives. “Wilder’s principal message in Our Town [is] that people should appreciate the details and interactions of everyday life while they [can still] live them (Context).”

At the end of Act I Rebecca Gibbs speaks about the envelope which she finds so bizarre and interesting. The envelope which intrigued her beyond belief was addressed like so: “Jane Crofut; The Crofut Farm; Grover’s Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America; Continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of God.” (Wilder 46 ) Wilder used the envelope to set an example, the example is that detail is often overlooked. The envelope was a symbol of how certain people acknowledge detail and appreciate it while on the other hand, some people completely fail to recognize it, let alone appreciate it. George, Rebecca’s brother couldn’t understand why Rebecca found the envelope so enthralling truly justifying Wilder’s point. The envelope was a vital symbol within the play that Wilder used to prove his point in order to teach his life lesson.

Emily Webb was one of those people who failed to recognize details and events. In the play Emily Webb eventually dies and goes on to relive a day, her so called “unimportant” 12th birthday(Wilder 100). However, Emily finds out that her 12th birthday was something bigger, it was a detail of her life. Her birthday was a detail that later added to her life, making her who she was. It took death for Emily to miss the details of life, but it took reliving a so-called “unimportant” day for her to appreciate them.

Every detail of every event adds to the bigger picture, the bigger picture is the masterpiece called life. Without the details and without the events, life would simply result in a blank canvas. The smallest of details and the smallest of events truly make dramatic differences. Removing just one single event or detail can cause one’s life to truly diminish from beautiful and puzzling to drab and monotonous.

Details can go noticed and appreciated but can also go unnoticed and unappreciated. Thornton Wilder deliberately implies that details engulf one’s life and reduce the value and importance of events. He does this intentionally to teach the life lesson that once death occurs, one is unable to go back and change their outlook on the very details and events that produced their life. Thornton Wilder makes a point about life; the specific point is that people become overwhelmed with detail over the course of their lives and decline to appreciate it. Wilder purposefully dismisses the value of detail within the play to make a point, the point being that details are the true definition of life.

Works Cited:
---. “Context.” Our Town. Spark Notes. n.d. Web. 3 May 2010.
Wilder, Thorton. Our Town: A Play in Three Acts. New York: Harper Collins Publishers Inc. 1965. Print.

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