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Pay a ticket, value life: Theories of drama in our town

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  1. Introduction
  2. The dramatic theory behind the plot
  3. Real characters in different points of life
  4. The Aristotelian traits
  5. The Artaudian influences
  6. Conclusion
  7. Bibliography

Thorton Wilder's Our Town remains a classic work of existential ideas and American theater because of its universality. While the play does take place specifically in Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, this specific small-town life is a metaphor not even for our own towns; rather, Thorton Wilder's play uses this location in trying to explain our world. Our Town focusses on the cycle of life through two main characters, Emily Webb and George Gibbs, each act covering childhood/daily life, love and commitment, and death respectively. The Stage Manager serves as the storyteller, guiding the audience in-and-out of the play, and we are able to see prototypes of other townsfolk that represent people in ours lives, as was Wilder's intended purpose. While Artaudian surrealism is not too present, the push-and-pull between this mix of Brecht's alienation effects and Aristotle's model for a tragic plot allows Thorton Wilder's Our Town in its many dramatic elements to create a desire for self-social change, where we are able to sympathize with the characters' new understandings of how much they should have valued every moment of their life while they were living it, hopefully inspiring us to do the same.

[...] While Emily and George are the focus of this play, where Emily faces a death as a plot reversal of Emily's happily married live in love with George (as Joe says, didn't you know? Had some trouble bringing a baby into the world?) the others who live in the town are given distinct characters who rise (Simon Stimson's self-realization in the afterlife) and fall (Wally Webb's death from burst appendix). Wilder follows these lives in his play to emphasize that the setting of this play is not in the context of one, or even just two, households. [...]

[...] While these Aristotelian traits span the entire plot of Our Town, what makes the show different from the type of drama Aristotle describes (where the entire drama is played with a willing suspension of disbelief) are the Brechtian influences throughout that keep the audience aware that they are, in fact, watching an illusion. Wilder makes no effort to keep this a secret. He features an omniscient narrator, The Stage Manager, who tells the story on stage, directly addresses the audience, and is able to step into characters in the plot when needed. [...]

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