Our Town By Thornton Wilder Summary and Analysis Act II: Part 2

Summary

While Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Webb prepare breakfast, Howie Newsome delivers milk. Si Crowell, Joe Crowell's younger brother, appears with the morning paper. Si worries that Grover's Corners is losing its best baseball pitcher — George Gibbs. Si doesn't understand how George can give up baseball just to get married. Constable Warren enters to check the drain pipes. There has been heavy rainfall; he fears flooding. Howie thinks the weather will clear up.

Mrs. Gibbs orders extra milk and cream because she expects a houseful of relatives. Across the street, Mrs. Webb also orders more milk and cream than usual. Howie expresses confidence that the newlyweds will be happy. Both women urge Howie and his wife to come to the wedding.

Doc Gibbs appears and comments to his wife that she is losing one of her chicks. Mrs. Gibbs feels like crying and insists that George and Emily are too young for marriage. Doc Gibbs reminds her of their own wedding day and his fear of matrimony. Mrs. Gibbs concludes that the natural order of human relationships is "two by two " He continues his reminiscence of how he worried that they would run out of things to talk about and have to eat in silence. But for twenty years, he muses, they have had plenty of topics to discuss.

George comes down for breakfast and nervously jokes about losing his freedom, which he symbolizes by pretending to cut his own throat. He starts across the yard to see Emily, but his mother, mindful of her role as chief worrier, makes him come back and put on his overshoes.

George's appearance perturbs Emily's mother, who explains that he must not bring bad luck by seeing the bride on her wedding day. George asks Mr. Webb if he believes that old superstition. Mr. Webb declares that there is often common sense behind superstitions. Mrs. Webb goes upstairs to keep Emily from coming down. As she leaves, she tells George to have a cup of coffee before going home.

Mr. Webb tries to discuss life and marriage with his future son-in-law. George wishes that a person could get married without so much bother, but Mr. Webb explains that it has always been like this because women want to "make sure that the knot's tied in a mighty public way " Mr. Webb relates the advice he received from his father about how to maintain control of women. He adds that he ignored the advice and concludes that George should not solicit advice on personal matters.

Mrs. Webb returns and sends George home so that Emily can come down to breakfast. Mr. Webb makes up another old saying: "No bridegroom should see his father-in-law on the day of the wedding ".

Analysis

Even though Act II is entitled "Love and Marriage," Wilder again arranges a routine of commonplace activities within the framework of daily life. In other words, he is repeating many of the activities found in the first act, except for the notable addition of French toast to the breakfast menu. Both the first and second acts begin with the appearance of the milkman and paper boy. Both characters discuss trivialities, such as the weather. The repetition gives an added air of realism to the scene. It makes life in "our town" seem more familiar, more predictable.

In Act II, however, these typical events occur on a wedding day. A young boy cannot understand why his high school hero can give up baseball in order to marry. The father of the groom teases the mother and reminds her of their own wedding day. The father remembers how nervous she was before they married. The mother worries that the couple are too young and that the new wife may not be capable of taking care of her son as she, the mother, has done in the past.

Mrs. Gibbs feels the need to mother George for the last time. In the name of good health, she bosses him, making him return to put on overshoes. As a means of freeing him from her control, she promises that in the future he can do as he pleases.

As a part of the prenuptial scene, Wilder has his characters discuss standard superstitions concerning weddings. He implies that old-fashioned beliefs have a basis in common sense without actually explaining them. Finally, Mr. Webb points out that people rarely pay attention to advice.

In general, Wilder tries to include anecdotal, Norman Rockwell–style activities connected with the humor and traditional elements that accompany a wedding. In this way, he evokes a sense of its importance, even though one wedding does not differ demonstrably from another.

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