& # 8216 ; Our Town & # 8217 ; Essay, Research Paper
Phase Director: This is the manner we were in the states north of New York at the beginning of the 20th century. & # 8211 ; This is the manner we were. & # 8211 ; Thornton Wilder, Our Town Compare and contrast the manner in which two modern American playwrights present the yesteryear? Our Town, written by Thornton Wilder in 1938, is a loyal narrative about small-town American life before the First World War. This authoritative drama traces the simple, wholesome lives of two households, the Gibbses and the Webbs, and represents their day-to-day lives, matrimony and decease, staged without scenery, narrated by a Phase Manager. His rhetorical manner of lyrical duologue and & # 8220 ; extended addresss full of graphic imagination or extremely rhythmic phrases, sometimes nearing the strength and musicalness of verse play & # 8221 ; , complemented by non-naturalistic theatrical production has influenced authors such as Tennessee Williams. While Brooks Atkinson has called this text a & # 8220 ; hauntingly beautiful drama & # 8221 ; , others have criticised it for exposing a sentimental position of American yesteryear, perpetuating the state & # 8217 ; s myths about itself. Tennessee Williams & # 8217 ; The Glass Menagerie, published in 1945, uses expressionist devices such as poetic linguistic communication, undisguised verbal and physical symbols, and an operative manner of suggestion in order to show the lives of the Wingfield household in Depression epoch St. Louis. In finding whether Wilder and Williams present an idealized vision of an American yesteryear, it is cardinal to analyze their usage of pragmatism versus expressionism and the construct of disaffection within the text. One must besides look into the didactic elements of these texts in order to measure whether these are ideological texts promoting conservativism, or extremist dramas advancing societal alteration. In his foreword to the drama, Wilder attacks realistic, museum show window play of the 1920 & # 8217 ; s, such as Eugene O & # 8217 ; Neill & # 8217 ; s Desire Under the Elms, claiming that he & # 8220 ; began to experience that the theater was non merely unequal, it was evasive & # 8230 ; The tragic had no heat ; the comedian had no bite ; the societal unfavorable judgment failed to indict us with responsibility. & # 8221 ; Wilder has attempted to reconstruct pragmatism to the theater, and one carbon monoxide uld argue that this is through the use of anti-illusionary devices. The construct of disaffection is cardinal to the manner in which we as the audience read the drama. For illustration, if the dominant subject within these dramas is that the yesteryear was positive, and that conservative values should hence be retained, and we are encouraged to go emotionally involved in the action, we may absorb these values. If nevertheless, we are alienated from the play by the usage of anti-illusionary devices, even if the dominant subject is one of nostalgia, we may be made to see this with cynicism. Wilder & # 8217 ; s first signifier of disaffection within Our Town is the usage of narrative throughout the drama. The Phase Manager plays a cardinal function in puting the scene from the beginning: & # 8220 ; This drama is called Our Town. It was written by Thornton Wilder & # 8230 ; & # 8221 ; In much the same manner that Bertolt Brecht utilises narrative within dramas such as Caucasic Chalk Circle, in order to make audience disaffection, it could be argued that the Stage Manager serves to remind the audience that they are in an unreal scene. However, while Brecht prevents the audience from being lulled into a false sense of emotion, Wilder promotes the audience to go involved in the action: Phase Director: Now is at that place anyone in the audience who would wish to inquire Editor Webb anything about the town? Although the audience is reminded that they are in a theater, they are encouraged in become involved in the narrative, hence losing their subjectiveness. We, the audience, are seduced into the semblance that we excessively are townspeople. Tennessee Williams in The Glass Menagerie besides employs narrative within his text through his cardinal character, Tom, who introduces the scene of the drama: Yes, I have fast ones in my pocket, I have things up my arm. But I am the antonym of a phase prestidigitator. He gives you semblance that has the visual aspect of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant camouflage of semblance. In this context, the audience is offered a glance into the life of the Wingfields while at the same clip being distanced from the affecting action through Tom & # 8217 ; s dry narrative. In his production notes to The Glass Menagerie, Williams outlines the importance of expressionism within his dramas: Expressionism and all other unconventional techniques in play have merely one valid purpose, and that is a closer attack to truth. When a drama employs unconventional techniques, it is non, or surely shouldn & # 8217 ; t be, seeking to get away its duty of covering with world, or construing experience, but is really or should be trying to happen a closer attack, a more acute and graphic look of things as they are. This effort to happen a closer attack to truth is otlined in Tom & # 8217 ; s opening address: Bing a memory drama, it is indistinctly lighted, it is sentimental, it is non realistic. Alienation is besides created through the use of flashbacks and clip oversights within the two texts. One illustration of this is in the concluding scene of Our Town, when the deceased Emily travels back in clip, live overing her childhood to detect that & # 8220 ; it goes so fast. We don & # 8217 ; Ts have clip to look at one another. & # 8221 ; Similarly, The Glass Menagerie involves the usage of flashbacks ; the drama is narrated by Tom in the present, old ages after the dramatized action, and his relation to the narrative he is stating is paramount to the drama: To get down with, I turn back clip. I reverse it to that quaint period, the mid-thirtiess, when the immense in-between category of America was matriculating in a school for the blind. Their eyes had failed them, or they had failed their eyes, and so they were holding their fingers pressed forcibly down on the fiery Braille alphabet of a fade outing economic system. Although both dramas invariably refer to the yesteryear through the usage of a storyteller, the Stage Manager in Our Town looks back on small-town life in the states with nostalgia, idealizing and romanticizing life at the bend of the century, whereas Tom & # 8211 ; claimed to stand for Williams & # 8217 ; contemplations of a repressed young person & # 8211 ; is acrimonious about his yesteryear. The set waies of both dramas serve to heighten the audience & # 8217 ; s nostalgia. The minimalist set of Our Town, which, harmonizing to the phase waies in Act One, includes neither drape nor sc enery, in which an audience arrives to see an empty set in half-light, farther alienates the witnesss, reminding them that they are in a theater instead than witnessing escapist play. Mime sequences, such as the newspaper bringing, complimented by narrative besides create disaffection: & # 8220 ; The belongingss are kept to a lower limit: the characters pantomime eating and in every manner supply an inventive, unrealistic counterpoint to the existent events of the story. & # 8221 ; The Glass Menagerie is set in an flat & # 8220 ; in the rear of the edifice, one of those huge hive-like conglobations of cellular living-units that flower as verrucose growings in overcrowded urban Centres of lower middle-class population. . . & # 8221 ; The characters make their entrywaies and issues via a side back street incorporating a fire flight, in which Tom makes his brooding addresss, puting himself aside from the action taking topographic point within the Wingfield place. The interiour consists of a life room downstage and a diningroom upstage, which are divided by a 2nd apron with transparent faded porti & # 232 ; RESs. This device allows the audience to portion in what may look to be a private penetration into Tom & # 8217 ; s past, and overhear confidential conversations between the Wingfields, pulling us to portion their struggles. The drama hence removes barriers between the audience and the histrions by promoting us to go involved, both through Tom & # 8217 ; s direct monologue to the audience, and through the invasive scenery. In analyzing the extent to which modern American playwrights present an idealized vision of an American yesteryear, one must analyze the didactic content within the two dramas. One may both reason that Wilder presents a extremist societal message within Our Town or that he encourages conservativism. The manner in which the establishment of matrimony is dealt with is cardinal. Mr Webb & # 8217 ; s attitude towards married life suggests that Wilder may be showing an option to sexual subjugation: Mr Webb: George, I was believing the other dark of some advice my male parent gave me when I got married. Charles, he said, Charles start out early screening who & # 8217 ; s foreman, he said. Best thing to make is to give an order, even if it don & # 8217 ; Ts make sense ; merely so she & # 8217 ; ll larn to obey. And he said: if anything about
your wife irritates you – her conversation, or anything – just get up and leave the house. That’ll make it clear to her, he said… So I took the opposite of my father’s advice and I’ve been happy ever since. However, the patriarchal message at the beginning of Act Two is highly conservative, promoting gender role stereotypes: Stage Manager: And there’s Mrs Gibbs and Mrs Webb come down to make breakfast, just as though it were an ordinary day. I don’t have to point out to the women in my audience that those ladies they see before them, both of those ladies cooked three meals a day – one of ‘em for twenty years, the other for forty – and no summer vacation. They brought up two children a piece, washed, cleaned the house – and never a nervous breakdown. By addressing the domestic duties of the women within Our Town specifically to female members of the audience, Wilder is justifying gender role stereotypes, suggesting that women should not complain about their domestic roles within society, and such subordinate themselves to men. Wilder is encouraging conformity within society and reinforcement of traditional values through Mr Webb’s dismissive treatment of the Belligerent Man in Act One: Belligent 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. Belligerent Man: Then why don’t they do something about it? Mr Webb: Well, I dunno… I guess we’re all hunting like everybody else for a way the diligent and sensible can rise to the top and the lazy and quarrelsome can sink to the bottom. But it ain’t easy to find. Meanwhile, we do all we can to help those that can’t help themselves and those than can we leave alone – Are there any other questions? Wilder presents the man as subversive, trouble-making, the exception rather than the rule – by calling him “belligerent”, he is making him a hostile and aggressive subject of ridicule. Although smalltown life is portrayed as a harmonious entity, the character of Simon Stimpson, a dissolute drunk who eventually commits suicide, suggests that this closeknit community has its flaws. However, Wilder makes no attempt to explain Stimpson’s motives for deviation and social demise; his abnormalities are depicted as being personal, rather than a product of society. The Glass Menagerie at first glance appears to be a radical play, challenging the consumer culture of the Twenties that led to the Depression, and addressing contemporary issues such as the Spanish civil war: In Spain there was revolution. Here there was only shouting and confusion. In Spain there was Guernica. Here there were disturbances of labour, sometimes pretty violent, in otherwise peaceful cities such as Chicago, Cleveland, Saint Louis. . . This is the social background of the play. However, the predominant conflict within this play is an internal one between Tom and his domineering mother, Amanda, rather than a social critique of American society. Although Tom as narrator constantly refers to the Wall Street Crash and the warfare in Europe, it is always as events outside the play and separated from it; the focus within the text is so internal that Jim, the gentleman caller is called “an emissary from a world of reality that we were somehow set apart from.” The focal point is the interaction between the three principal characters, Amanda, Tom, and his invalid sister Laura, all of whom are presented as individuals who are unable to function in the outside world. The past is a fundamental aspect within Our Town; the graveyard sequence describes the graves of puritan settlers and civil war Unionists: Stage Manager: 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…Over there are some Civil War veterans… Wilder is perpetuating America’s ideological myths about itself, displaying a sentimental and nostalgic view of an idealised past, in which White Anglo Saxon Protestant settlers established a harmonious community, which they were prepared to unanimously sacrifice their lives for, although the soldiers had never seen the “America” that they had been fighting for. However, these geneologists and patriotic ancestor-hunters are presented as objects of mild ridicule. The past plays an equally fundamental role within The Glass Menagerie. Amanda is constantly referring to an idyllic period during her youth, when she was the object of male attention, and she is perpetually reliving the part of the “Southern belle”: My callers were gentlemen – all! Among my callers were some of the most prominent young planters of the Mississippi Delta – planters and sons of planters! There was young Champ Laughlin who later became vice-president of the Delta Planters Bank. Hadley Stevenson who was drowned in Moon Lake and left his widow one hundred and fifty thousand in Government bonds. There were the Cutrere brothers, Wesley and Bates. Bates was one of my bright particular beaux! He got in a quarrel with that wild Wainwright boy. They shot it out on the floor of Moon Lake Casino. Bates was shot through the stomach. Died in the ambulance on his way to Memphis. His widow was also well-provided for, came into eight or ten acres, that’s all. She married him on the rebound – never loved her – carried my picture on him the night he died! Amanda Wingfield’s constant referral to the past displays nostalgia, a longing to relive her past through her past through her daughter, Laura, whom she wishes to find a “gentleman caller”. However, although both texts involve a nostalgia for the past, this theme is presented very differently; whereas Wilder’s illylic vision of an American past is presented as a positive, patriotic artifact, Williams’ treats Amanda’s character with ridicule; we are encouraged to identify with the cynical Tom rather than his fanciful mother. The South that Williams envisions is disintegrating, out of place with the modern world: Nostalgia is the first condition of the play. But this is a nostalgia for a past which never actually existed. Like Willy Loman’s Death of a Salesman, Williams’ characters find themselves stranded in a void of time and space, in which they cannot relate neither to their setting nor to the times in which they live. This results in “distorted memories of the past, or wistful dreams of a redemptive future.” Although it is impossible to generalise about modern American drama on the basis of two texts, one can observe that the past plays an important role. Both plays share defining characteristics of alienation, created through narration and flashbacks. However, while Thornton Wilder’s Our Town is a highly sentimental text, encouraging conformity and conservatism through its idealised vision of an American past, Tennessee Williams treats the past as a source of mild ridicule. Despite Wilder’s utilisation of controversial and radical alienation effects such as minimalist scenery, narration, time-lapses and mime sequences, unlike Bertolt Brecht, he does not serve to challenge society or encourage objectivity. Rather than reminding the audience that they are in an artificial setting, he is drawing them into the action, encouraging them to use their imagination through the Stage Manager’s vivid descriptions (”You can see range on range of hills – awful blue they are – up there by Lake Sunapee and Lake Winnepesaukee…”) and get more rather than less involved in the story. Tom’s cynical narrative sequences to the audience in The Glass Menagerie, delivered from the fire escape, serve to alienate the audience from the dramatic interractions between the Wingfields inside the house. However, the invasive set construction, which allows us to observe action in the back of the house through the use of a transparent proscenium, encourages us to become more involved. Gender differences in Our Town are portrayed as being essential to the community, and any advocater of social change is treated with scorn and is ridiculed, such as the Belligerent Man. Similarly, any problems experienced by characters in The Glass Menagerie are dealt with in a personal, rather than a social basis, so that any polemic element is neglected. By having the Stage Manager o f Our Town announce at the beginning of the play that “This is the way we were in the provinces north of New York at the beginning of the twentieth century”, Wilder is demonstrating that he is presenting an idealised vision of a nostalgic past rather than an historical phenomenon.