Certain works of literature really need to be pulled out over and over again as we go through our lives, because as we mature and experience difference things we read the piece through different eyes. I first read Our Town, like most people, when I was in high school, and at that point I didn’t particularly care for it. This time around I found it poignant and startling.
A play in three acts, Our Town follows the citizens of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire as they pass through three periods of life: youth, marriage, and death. Along the way they pass along universal pearls of wisdom that sound as if they could have sprung from your most beloved grandma or a wise philosopher. I read the print version of the play, but you can tell from the stage directions that unlike most plays, when performed the staging is kept very minimal, forcing the audience to focus on the message the actors are conveying.
What makes the play so wonderful is that everyone can relate to its simple, everyday themes. It makes no difference at all that the play was written in 1938. The issues that are lived within its 112 pages are exactly the same issues that we live 74 years later-we come of age, fall in love, marry, and die. We “...celebrate...a friend who tells me all the things that ought to be told me.” Like those of Grover’s Corners, we look back on our own wedding day with fond chagrin and struggle letting our children go when they marry. When it comes to dying, no one, I think, writes a scene as compelling as the third act of Wilder’s play. I would love to copy out some of the powerful lines, the haunting ones that I put in my journal, but in doing so I would give away the character’s names, and that would give away the ending of the play. It is simply 112 pages that you must read for yourself.
There is a reason that Our Town won the Pulitzer and continues to be so well-regarded. It is a classic in the truest sense of the word-it is utterly timeless in its ability to speak to the heart of what makes us human. I would certainly say that it was a beautiful way to spend a couple of hours.