Our Town

Act 2

summarize the varying attitudes toward marriage, and determine their significance. 

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The Stage Manager says of weddings that only "once in a thousand times it's interesting." This line rings with the earlier talk about nature being interested in both quantity and quality. Nature reproduces itself endlessly; everything repeats and re-cycles and renews. But every once in a while there's an anomaly, something truly out of the ordinary, and it is through those anomalies that nature can evolve. Likewise, human life cycles through birth and marriage and death, birth and marriage and death, each life fundamentally the same as the last - but one time in a thousand, something interesting happens, and that's how society naturally changes. Of course, even those changes are ordained-even the unusual is limited to "one in a thousand," and thus, in its unique way, is also cyclical.

The wedding itself balances two meanings, so to speak, of getting married-a wedding as a symbolic, public act, and a marriage as a private life-long connection. Much talk in the second act distinguishes the ceremony of a wedding from the lived fact of a wedding. When George complains that he wishes "a fellow could get married without all that marching up and down," Mr. Webb reasons that it's the women "standing shoulder to shoulder making sure that the knot's tied in a mighty public way." But Mr. Webb values the institution of marriage, even as he belittles its outward trappings. And at the wedding itself, both Emily and George panic when confronted with the ceremony and symbols of the wedding, but they are talked back into continuing down the aisle by appeals to what their marriage will really mean. Both the wedding-the public approval of the bond-and the marriage-the private bond itself-are important to the reproduction of a society, to its stability and endurance.