Study Guide

Our Town Choices

By Thornton Wilder


So I took the opposite of my father’s advice and I’ve been happy ever since. And let that be a lesson to you, George, never ask advice on personal matters. (II.152)

Mr. Webb advises George not to listen to other people’s advice about marriage, as he decided not to heed his father’s orders.

Emily, why are you mad at me? (II.192)

George’s decision to walk with Emily and engage her in open conversation catalyzes the start of their romantic relationship.

After a pause, very seriously. Emily, I’m going to make up my mind right now. I won’t go. I’ll tell Pa about it tonight. (II.251)

George decides not to go to agricultural school in order to begin the next chapter of his life with Emily.

Listen, Emily, I’m going to tell you why I’m not going to Agriculture School. I think that once you’ve found a person that you’re very fond of…I mean a person who’s fond of you, too, and likes you enough to be interested in your character…Well, I think that’s just as important as college is, and even more so. That’s what I think. (II.256)

George decides to forego school in order to develop his relationship with Emily.

GEORGE: Emily, if I do improve and make a big change…would you be… I mean: could you be…
EMILY: I… I am now; I always have been. (II.261-2)

The actual proposal is unsaid – and it’s also predicated on the idea that George improves himself.

SAM CRAIG: He was organist at church, wasn’t he? – Hm, drank a lot, we used to say.
JOE STODDARD: Nobody was supposed to know about it. He’d seen a peck of trouble. Behind his hand. Took his own life, y’know?
SAM: Oh, did he?
JOE Hung himself in the attic. They tried to hush it up, but of course it got around. He chose his own epy-taph. You can see it there. It ain’t a verse exactly (III.58-61).

Simon’s decision to end his life doesn’t result in greater understanding. Rather, he’s an even greater enigma.

EMILY: Mother Gibbs, George and I have made that farm into just the best place you ever saw. We thought of you all the time. We wanted to show you the new barn and a great long ce-ment drinking fountain for the stock. We bought that out of the money you left us.
MRS. GIBBS: I did? (III.111-2)

The decisions Mrs. Gibbs made while she was alive (to leave some money to her children) resulted in some dramatic changes on the Gibbs farm.

Then it can’t be since I was married; or since the baby was born. To the stage manager, eagerly. I can choose a birthday at least, can’t I? – I choose my twelfth birthday…Oh, I want the whole day. (III.157—9,161)

Despite the protests of her fellow dead, Emily decides to go back to her life.

I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. She breaks down sobbing…I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back – up the hill – to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Good-by, Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover’s Corners…Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking…and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths…and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. (III.45-9)

Emily decides against staying alive through her memories, preferring to remain at her gravesite.

No…I should have listened to you. That’s all human beings are! Just blind people. (III.269)

Emily believes that people have the ability to appreciate life while they’re living, but very few people are aware enough to do so.