Overall, Thornton Wilder creates the microcosm of Grover's Corners as a means of expressing an overview of life. Even though the setting remains firmly rooted in small-town affairs, the passage of the 5:45 to Boston and references to New York and Paris tie the story to metropolitan areas. Allusions to the two million inhabitants of Babylon and the location of the town "on the old Pleistocene granite of the Appalachian range" keep the story from bogging down in an isolated locale. Likewise, the education of Joe Crowell, Jr , at Massachusetts Tech and his death on the battlefields in France along with the choice of some residents to be buried in Brooklyn place the story in an ever-widening sphere of interest.
Wilder peoples his microcosm with a surprisingly large and memorable cast of characters. Small references to Miss Foster's marriage "to a fella over in Concord," the Cartwrights' wealth derived from producing blankets at the town's only factory, Principal Wilkins' praise of Emily's school performance, Hank Todd's departure to Maine to become a parson, Uncle Luke's retirement, and the rowdy Saturday night meeting of farmhands at Ellery Greenough's stable form a growing list of citizens, all retaining at least one spark of individuality. Like Mrs. Gibbs filling her apron with feed for her chickens, Wilder parcels out attention to the humblest, least noteworthy residents.