Summary and Analysis
The Stage Manager gives background information about the families because "in our town we like to know the facts about everybody " As he notices Doc Gibbs coming up Main Street, he tells us something about the Gibbs family. Sometime in the future, he explains, after Doc Gibbs' death in 1930, the new hospital will be named for him. He will live a few years after his wife dies of pneumonia.
Doc Gibbs passes Joe Crowell, Jr , the paper boy, and in answer to Joe's question, the doctor explains that he has been out all night delivering twins over in "Polish Town " The Stage Manager interrupts to explain that Joe Crowell will be one of the brightest boys ever to graduate from Grover's Corners and will be awarded a scholarship to Massachusetts Tech, but that he will be killed in France during the war. All Joe's education will go for nothing.
The Stage Manager then points to Howie Newsome, a man in his thirties wearing overalls, coming down the street in a horsedrawn wagon and delivering milk. He leaves bottles at the Webbs' house and then crosses over to talk to Doc Gibbs. The doctor announces that he has delivered twins to Mrs. Goruslawski. Mrs. Gibbs enters and calls the children to get up. Howie continues along his milk route. The doctor tells his wife that the birth went as easily as delivering kittens. Mrs. Gibbs, a constant worrier, calls to her children, George and Rebecca, to hurry or be late for school. She chides her husband for trying to work on three hours' sleep and complains that George whines too much and concentrates only on baseball. Rebecca dislikes the blue gingham dress that her mother has ironed. Mrs. Gibbs assures Rebecca that she always looks nice. At Rebecca's complaint that George is throwing soap, their mother threatens to slap both of them. During the give and take of the Gibbs family breakfast, Mrs. Webb enters and calls her children, Wally and Emily, to hurry or be late for school. They come down for breakfast. The Stage Manager interrupts with the fact that the factory in Grover's Comers makes blankets. Mrs. Webb complains that Wally is studying at the table. Emily announces that she is a bright girl with a wonderful memory. Across the way, Mrs. Gibbs promises George that she will ask Doc about an increase in George's allowance of twenty-five cents a week.
At the sound of the first bell, all of the children charge out of the house and run for school. Then Mrs. Gibbs feeds her chickens from her apron. She and Mrs. Webb string beans. Mrs. Gibbs tells of a second-hand furniture dealer who is offering three hundred and fifty dollars for her heirloom highboy, which is a tall chest of drawers on legs. She would like to sell it and use the money for a trip to Paris, but Doc Gibbs likes to travel only to Civil War battlegrounds. Mrs. Webb encourages her to make the sale.
It is apparent that there is no sense of anticipation or plot complication thus far. Instead, Wilder presents a typical day filled with unremarkable details, such as Wally's study of Canada. The one noteworthy event — the birth of twins — suggests that life is a continuing cycle. It has a certain humdrum, repetitious, yet secure routine. For example, Mrs. Gibbs considers spending money on a trip to Paris, but she never goes there — not because she can't, but because European travel does not fit the preconceived pattern of her life.
The attraction of this benign monotony is a mesmerizing flow of days that go on without too much bother by the inhabitants. Its routineness is taken for granted. This theme of predictability appears in the last act when Emily returns to the past to appreciate the simplistic routine of a single day. She realizes then — only after death — that life is a priceless opportunity.