Our Town Act 2 Discussion Questions

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Would you like to educate your high school students about Act 2 of 'Our Town' by Thornton Wilder? The discussion questions below will guide them, as they venture to see deeper meanings in the classic 1938 work.

Act 2 of Our Town by Thornton Wilder

John Cougar Mellencamp once wrote, ''I can breathe in a small town.'' In the iconic play Our Town by Thornton Wilder, the events of a small town and the day-to-day lives of its citizens are depicted in what seems a simplistic and straightforward fashion. However, hidden in the storyline are much deeper meanings and symbols, and it turns out the town of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire can represent any of your high schoolers' small towns, and the characters' emotions can represent all of their emotions.

Questions About the Plot - The Milkman's Conversations

  • According to the Stage Manager, how much time has elapsed since Act 1, and what is the name of this act?
  • How is the stage still the same as in Act 1, and what items have been removed?
  • How would you evaluate the casual conversations the milkman Howie Newsome had with Si Crowell, Constable Warren, Mrs. Gibbs, and Mrs. Webb? Which of the four had the most impact on Act 2, and why?

Questions About the Plot - The Gibbs' Conversation

  • As Mrs. Gibbs and Dr. Gibbs talked about the impending wedding, Mrs. Gibbs states, ''Frank! they're too young. Emily won't think of such things.'' What did she mean by that proclamation? How is she attempting to maintain her motherly stature to George?
  • As the Gibbs reminisced about their own wedding day, how would you break down what Dr. Gibbs meant when he stated, ''There I was in the Congressional Church marryin' a total stranger?''
  • Mrs. Gibbs replied, ''Farces---that's what they are!'' How would you analyze that statement?
  • Mrs. Gibbs announced, ''Yes... people are meant to go through life two by two. 'Tain't natural to be lonesome.'' How did this crucial line best sum up the motif of Act 2?

Questions About the Plot - George Visits the Webbs

  • What did Mrs. Webb tell George about not seeing the bride on the wedding day?
  • How would you justify the reasons for the awkward conversation between George and Mr. Webb about marriage?
  • What did Mr. Webb humorously say about the bridegroom seeing his father-in-law on the day of the wedding?

Questions About the Plot - The Romance Blossoms

  • What recent school elections did Emily and George just win, respectively?
  • How do you judge what Emily meant when she said she had to ''tell the truth and shame the devil?''
  • How would you calculate the way George reacted to Emily's honesty, and what did their conversation entail?
  • When Emily and George were talking about him going away to Agriculture School, what serious topic do you imagine they were really talking about instead, although they never actually said the exact words? (the two becoming a couple)

Questions About the Plot - The Wedding

  • How did you react when the play went straight from the romantic meeting at the drug store to the wedding?
  • At the beginning of the wedding, Mrs. Webb said, ''The whole world's wrong, that's what's the matter.'' How would you compare and contrast that statement from 1904 with similar statements people still make in modern times?
  • When George started to panic, what did he discuss with his mother?
  • When Emily started to panic, what did she discuss with her father?
  • How did Mrs. Soames interrupt the wedding nuptials?
  • After the couple is wed, what did the Stage Manager say about weddings and life in general?
  • How did Act 2 come to a conclusion?

Vocabulary (In Alphabetical Order)

  • Contriving
  • Crestfallen
  • Proscenium
  • Tableau
  • 'Twan't

Questions About the Themes of Time and Eternity

  • How would you visualize the ways the play repeatedly showed the grandness of the fleeting nature of time, as opposed to the mundane trivialities of day-to-day small-town living?
  • Early in Act 2 the Stage Manager stated that Act 1 was called ''Daily Life'', and as far as Act 3, ''I reckon you can guess what that's about.'' How did this cue the reader, and how did it affect the way this act was viewed by the reader?

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