Study Guide

Our Town Visions of America

By Thornton Wilder

Visions of America

Here’s the grocery store and here’s Mr. Morgan’s drugstore. Most everybody in town manages to look into these two stores once a day. Public School’s over yonder. High School’s still farther over. Quarter of nine mornings, noontimes, and three o’clock afternoons, the hull town can hear the yelling and screaming from those schoolyards. (I.25-6)

Grover’s Corners is so small that the stores and schools are not referred to by name but by purpose.

The earliest tombstones in the cemetery up there on the mountain say 1670-1680 – they’re Grovers and Cartwrights and Gibbses and Herseys – same names as are around here now. (III.41)

Grover’s Corners is home to generations of the same families.

In our town we like to know the facts about everybody. (I.51)

Read: everybody is in everybody else’s business.

DR. GIBBS: Pair of twins over to Mrs. Goruslawski’s. HOWIE NEWSOME: Twins, eh? This town’s getting’ bigger every year. (I.84-5)

The town population is so small that even two more people represent a significant increase.

Bessie’s all mixed up about the route ever since the Lockharts stopped takin’ their quart of milk every day. She wants to leave ‘em a quart just the same – keeps scolding me the hull trip. (I.91)

Just like the cow is accustomed to her route, the small town is accustomed to its habits.

I don’t see how Rebecca comes to have so much money. She has more’n a dollar. (I.143)

During this time period, a dollar is a respectable amount of money.

You know how he is. I haven’t heard a serious word out of him since I’ve known him. No, he said, it might make him discontented with Grover’s Corners to go traipsin’ about Europe; better let well enough alone, he says. Every two years he makes a trip to the battlefields of the Civil War and that’s enough treat for anybody, he says. (I.198)

Mr. Gibbs is content to staying within the parameters of the United States.

Yes…anthropological data: Early Amerindian stock. Cotahatchee tribes…no evidence before the tenth century of this era…hm…now entirely disappeared…possible traces in three families. Migration toward the end of the seventeenth century of English brachiocephalic blue-eyed stock… for the most part. Since then some Slav and Mediterranean – (I.206)

Professor Willard describes the destruction of the Native American population on Grover’s Corners land, and the immigration of new groups of people.

Oh, yes, indeed? – The population, at the moment, is 2,642. The Postal District brings in 507 more, making a total of 3,149. – Mortality and birth rates: constant. – By MacPherson’s gauge: 6.032. (I.222)

Professor Willard reveals the town’s small and consistent population.

Very ordinary town, if you ask me. Little better behaved than most. Probably a lot duller. But our young people here seem to like it well enough. Ninety per cent of ‘em graduating from high school settle down right here to live – even when they’ve been away to college (I.227-8)

Grover’s Corners is an insular town that retains its population.

We’ve got one or two town drunks, but they’re always having remorses every time an evangelist comes to town. No, ma’am, I’d say likker ain’t a regular thing in the home here, except in the medicine chest. Right good for snake bite, y’know – always was. (I.231)

Mr. Webb describes Grover’s Corners has a town with high scruples and low alcohol consumption rates.

BELLIGERENT MAN: Is there no one in town aware of social injustice and industrial inequality?
MR. WEBB: Oh, yes, everybody is – somethin’ terrible. Seems like they spend most of their time talking about who’s rich and who’s poor. (I.235)

Mr. Webb might not have discussed imperfection in the town if not for this man’s question.

MR WEBB: Meanwhile, we do all we can to help those that can’t help themselves and those that can we leave alone. – Are there any other questions? (I.238)

Mr. Webb describes Grover’s Corners as a community of people who prize and respect self-sufficiency.

No, ma’am, there isn’t much culture; but maybe this is the place to tell you that we’ve got a lot of pleasures of a kind here: we like the sun comin’ up over the mountain in the morning and we all notice a good deal about the birds. (I.240)

People in Grover’s Corners appreciate the simple things in life.

But, Julia! To have the organist of a church drink and drunk year after year. You know he was drunk tonight. (I.371)

The small town gossip revolves around Simon, the town drunk.

I guess I know more about Simon Stimson’s affairs than anybody in this town. Some people ain’t made for small-town life. I don’t know how that’ll end; but there’s nothing we can do but just leave it alone. (I.390)

Not everyone is suited for small town life. Dr. Gibbs disapproves of people who gossip about Simon Stimson, implying that living in a small-town requires respect for people’s private lives.

Blowing out the lamp.
They’re all getting citified, that’s the trouble with them. They haven’t got nothing fit to burgle and everybody knows it. (I.399-400)

Dr. Gibbs dislikes the thought of urbanization in a small town like Grover’s Corners.

I never told you about that letter Jane Crofut got from her minister when she was sick. He wrote Jane a letter and on the envelope the address was like this: It said: Jane Crofut; The Crofut Farm; Grover’s Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America…Continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the mind of God – that’s what it said on the envelope. (I.441-3)

Grover’s Corners is a small town in a big universe.

There are a hundred and twenty-five horses in Grover’s Corners this minute I’m talking to you. State Inspector was in here yesterday. And now they’re bringing in these auto-mo-biles, the best thing to do is to just stay home. Why, I can remember when a dog could go to sleep all day in the middle of Main Street and nothing come along to disturb him (II.225)

Grover’s Corners is a town of horses and wagons, but recently there have been more and more cars populating the town.

It certainly seems like being away three years you’d get out of touch with things. Maybe letters from Grover’s Corners wouldn’t be so interesting after a while. Grover’s Corners isn’t a very important place when you think of all New Hampshire; but I think it’s a very nice town.(II.241)

Emily worries that George will forget about Grover’s Corners.

The day wouldn’t come when I wouldn’t want to know everything that’s happening here. I know that’s true, Emily. (II.242)

George assures Emily that he will always want to stay in touch with Grover’s Corners.

Everybody locks their house doors now at night. Ain’t been any burglars in town yet, but everybody’s heard about ‘em. You’d be surprised, though – on the whole, things don’t change much around here. (III.11-2)

Even though the small town is becoming more and more modern, the Stage Manager claims that the town is still very much the same.

Over there – Pointing to stage left. Are the old stones, - 1670, 1680. Strong-minded people that come a long way to be independent. Summer people walk around there laughing at the funny words on the tombstones…it don’t do any harm. And genealogists come up from Boston – get paid by city people for looking up their ancestors. They want to make sure they’re Daughters of the American Revolution and of the Mayflower…Well, I guess that don’t do any harm, either. Wherever you come near the human race, there’s layers and layers of nonsense…Over there are some Civil War veterans. Iron flags on their graves…New Hampshire boys… had a notion that the Union ought to be kept together, thought they’d never seen more than fifty miles of it themselves. All they knew was the name, friends – the United States of America. The United States of America. And they went and died about it. (III.18-21)

This passage is rather ambiguous towards civilization, humanity, and the United States.