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character/theme connection:mrs. gibbs

By amazinglyash Jan 24, 2014 709 Words
Grover’s Corners, a small town in New Hampshire, is the setting for Thornton Wilder’s play, Our Town.Throughout the three acts, we follow the conventional lives of two families: the Gibbses and the Webbs. As the play progresses, we see everything from morning routines, to first loves, to heartbreaking losses; overall, pretty commonplace, small town lives. Here, hidden in the ordinary, Wilder begins to weave one of his themes and uses Mrs. Gibbs to advance it. She is raising two children, married to the town doctor, and just a regular housewife. Hers is a perfect life for Wilder to expand upon the theme of finding extraordinary in the ordinary. Mrs. Gibbs as a character strengthens the idea that even the most ordinary, run-of-the-mill lives can be special and meaningful to the people living them.

At the start of Act I, we see the morning routine of sleepy Grover’s Corners. The papers delivered, the milks dropped off, and the houses begin to buzz with activity.  In the Gibbs house, Mrs. Gibbs is preparing breakfast for her family, as she has done every day for as long as she’s been married. After everyone is gone, we can assume she cleans the house, washes the laundry, and tends to her garden, just as every good housewife does. Looking in, we might think hers is a lackluster existence, that there is no way she could be happy living such an ordinary life.  However, this is where we’re wrong. The stage manager makes a comment in act II: “Both these ladies [Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Webb] cooked three meals a day…brought up two children apiece, washed, cleaned the house,-- and never a nervous breakdown.”(49). Mrs. Gibbs has been doing the same thing for most of her lifetime, and she enjoys it. She doesn’t need an exciting life, with something new every day, caring for her family is enough; it’s what she loves. This ordinary routine is her life, and while some might not see the extraordinary in it, she does.

Sometimes, however, this routine breaks, and we can see some of the extraordinary ourselves. On the day of George’s wedding, Mrs. Gibbs gets up and makes breakfast, just like she always does. As she sets the plate down in front of Dr. Gibbs, she says, “Here, I’ve made something for you.” to which he exclaims, “Why Julia Hersey—French toast!” (54). It’s the day of her son’s wedding, she has a million other things to do, but she got up early to make her husband his favorite breakfast. Wilder uses this little moment to showcase the extraordinary in the ordinary. Just this little adorable act, a special breakfast, shows how much Mrs. Gibbs really does love Dr. Gibbs, and that is why she’s so content with her life.

After she died, it would’ve been easy for Mrs. Gibbs to look back on her life and be regretful of the ordinary life she chose. She never did get to go to Paris or do anything too exciting by our standards. But again, we’re proven wrong and shown how much joy Mrs. Gibbs found in her ordinary life. In the graveyard, Simon Stimson has an outburst, saying that life is only full of ignorance and blindness, alluding to greed and injustice in the world. Mrs. Gibbs puts his outburst to rest, saying, “Simon Stimson, that ain’t the whole truth and you know it.” (109). She sees the good in the world, and how fulfilling life can be, even if it’s just a small town life. In death, Mrs. Gibbs is content with the choices she made in life, and isn’t in any way bitter towards her regular life.

Mrs. Gibbs plays an important thematic role in Our town. She shows us that not everybody needs an extravagant life to be happy. For some, raising a family and being with someone you love is more than enough. Wilder uses her to show that, in this small town much like our own, people are finding the extraordinary. People have the same routine day in and day out, with little moments of magic here and there, and they are doing just fine.

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