None of the characters in Our Town are very psychologically complex. Wilder wanted the characters themselves to be as representative and archetypal as possible, so that the audience would not tie these events and ideas down to individual character types, but generalize the story to themselves. On paper, therefore, the characters are all fairly undefined. Every production gives the world a different Emily, a different Stage Manager (a role that Wilder himself played a few times), and this is how Wilder wanted it.
The narrator of Our Town, he exists both within the narrative of Grover's Corners and outside of it, commenting on the action and reporting future events. He is the intermediary between the audience and the vignettes of life in Grover's Corners, directing the characters in how they tell their story and fleshing out the details. He also occasionally steps into individual roles, as Mr. Morgan and the minister and several others. The Stage Manager is kindly and sincere, earnest in his love for Grover's Corners and honest in his appreciation of its ordinariness.
Emily is often remembered as the main character of Our Town, but this is only because of her role in the third act, in which she replaces the Stage Manager as the primary articulator of the principal themes. She is an intelligent girl, taking pride in her schoolwork but without any particular professional ambitions, as befitted her era. She knows what she wants and isn't afraid to pursue her desires, modest though they are. Emily is elected secretary and treasurer of her high school class, and marries George right after graduation. Nine years later, she dies in childbirth.
The star of the school, George is not much of a scholar but a great ball player. His popularity gets in the way of his relationship with Emily, but when she brings this to his attention, he quickly changes his behavior. He is less self-assured than Emily, despite being a boy in a more androcentric time, but he does know that the things he loves most are Emily and Grover's Corners.
The editor of the Grover's Corners Sentinel and Emily and Wally's father. Mr. Webb honestly assesses Grover's Corners as a rather dull place, but he speaks of it with affection. Despite being a newspaperman, he is fairly uninterested in acknowledging the personal tragedy of Simon Stimson's alcoholism. He and Mrs. Webb were married having never met one another, but it worked out well for them and he still believes strongly in the institution of marriage.
She is sensible and serious, and does not have much interest nor time for silliness. She is honest with her children and displays no more affection than is necessary, though of course she loves them very much.
Emily's little brother, four years her junior. He dies of a burst appendix while on a Boy Scout trip.
Dr. Gibbs is an old-fashioned, house-calling general practitioner. As the main doctor for Grover's Corners, he is very over-worked in the opinion of his wife, but he refuses to take a vacation. He is an expert in Civil War battle history, and visiting old battlefields is enough vacation for him, since seeing Europe is liable to make him discontented with Grover's Corners. When he died, the new hospital was named after him.
Worrying and affectionate, Mrs. Gibbs wishes her husband would take a vacation, both because he needs a break and because she is desperate to see Europe. She dies young, while visiting her daughter in Ohio.
George's little sister, four years his junior. She is fanciful and wondering as a girl. She eventually marries an insurance man and moves to Ohio.
The church organist and choirmaster, and the town drunk. Simon battles with alcoholism for years, but rather than helping, the polite New Englanders of Grover's Corners turn a blind eye to his problems. He finds the artless atmosphere of Grover's Corners to be stifling. Never cut out for small town life, he escapes to the bottle and, eventually, to suicide.
Our Town Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Our Town is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Many critics had considered Wilder's earlier works as "escapist" and lacking in realism. Wilder, in some part, wrote this play as a response to these critics. Wilder lived in a series of small towns in America where he conceived the ideas for the...