by Thornton Wilder
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Morbid but hopeful
From the beginning of the play, the Stage Manager introduces the characters only to give their death dates. It’s like he’s making us read a book backwards – we already know what happens (hint: everyone dies). However, it’s not until the last act that we the audience begin to understand the meaning of all the morbid overtones. When Emily realizes all the wasted moments of her past, the pain is too much to bear, and we too realize all the moments we take for granted. But we’re not dead. We have the opportunities to cherish life that Emily does not.