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A Critical Analysis of Culture: Myopic Views from the perspective of Our Town Characters

Laura Senackerib Ms. Fortuna English 12 H, D 29 October 2009

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Critical Socio Cultural Critical Feminist Theory Theory
h ug o hr t ity ge t en ria Id ar m

c pi yo M ts in po ew Vi

Post-Modern Theory

Critical Feminist Theory
-Roles of woman in a society pertaining to equity -Only way for Emily to gain identity is through marriage -Education squashed because only future option is to marry George -Women are dependent on men for success in life

“I’m going to make speeches all my life.” (31)

-Emily says this confidently to her mother. -Emily can feel that her life can amount to Emily is smart and could have a bright future more than a simple housewife for George. in the educated world, but her mother She does not want to marry George because disregards this statement and is more she knows that she can do better than him. concerned with telling her daughter that she Her father believes that the only way for is “pretty”. To Mrs. Webb, the superficial Emily to obtain an identity is to become Mrs. appearance of her daughter is more George Gibbs. She “shouldn’t think of such important than her brilliant mind. In Grover’s things” because there is no other option for Corners, Mrs. Webb knows that her Emily. She will marry George because that is daughter’s future relies on her marrying a all she is allowed to achieve. man at a young age, therefore, her daughter’s face and beauty is more important than her mind, hindering her escape from feminine inequality. INTERPRETATION

“There must be lots of places we can go to. I’ll work for you…”-Emily “Sh…you mustn’t think of such things.”Mr. Webb (79)

Scholarly Research: “The Humanist, believing in a system of natural pieties, gives dignity and purpose to a man’s world, and his interest is always with the permanent, not the temporary, concerns of human life” (“Thornton Wilder” by Dayton

-In Our Town, George’s life is given dignity when he marries Emily and she becomes his wife and his property. Marriage is permanent and is until “death do us part.” There is no temporary binding between George and Emily and Wilder is showing the purpose and dignity given to George through this marriage.

The point of the Critical Feminist Theory is to show the role of woman in a society pertaining to equity. This connects to the textual evidence because Emily wants an equal chance in life through giving speeches or having other options than marriage, but she does not receive this equal treatment. The scholarly-research explains that Wilder “gives dignity and purpose to a man’s world” through Emily and George’s marriage. There is no equity regarding feminism in these statements at all. Emily does not have the same options and chances that George does. Grover’s Corners does not allow for equity between man and woman.

-a habit formed based on culture -people venturing from the social norm are ostracized -”When in Rome, do as the Romans” -Citizens of Grover’s Corners, Emily in particular, are expected to lead a typical lifestyle -For Emily, this means marrying young.

Critical Socio Cultural Theory
The Critical Socio Cultural Theory is a I habit formed based on a regions culture. N This is evident in the textual excerpt T because Emily wishes to escape from this social norm and life her own life, but she E is unable to fulfill this wish due to R tradition and habits of Grover’s Corners P inhabitants before her. The scholarly research explains that through Wilder’s -Emily’s desire to deviate from the social R creative effort to show Emily’s desire to norm of Grover’s Corners is shushed by her E amount to something in life, socio cultural father. Mr. Webb understands that it is a tradition for women to marry men while both T theory is hindering her from deviating are young and he will not let Emily be any from the path of marriage. Emily must A marry George for there is no other option different. Emily suggests going away from the common assumption of the citizens in her T in terms of social norm. Emily would town and states perhaps that she can stay as I become ostracized from Grover’s Corners she is, which is completely going against what is culturally acceptable. Mr. Webb O if she created her own destiny. The only cannot allow is daughter to be a societal socially acceptable option for Emily to N marry George and leave her individuality outcast, and refuses his daughter’s request to stray from the path of commonality. behind. Scholarly Research: “…what elements of the classical tradition are to be found, in what way they are changed within the process of creative transformation and what function and relative importance they have.” (Riamund Borgmerier)
-The elements of the classical tradition in Our Town is the wedding. “Tradition” in this sense states why Emily must marry George, because that is how everyone else has lead their lives. They are born, they are educated, they are married, they have families, and they die. It is an essential portion of human life in Grover’s Corners to marry. Wilder shows the reader the potential Emily has in pursuing her life individually without a husband, but the expectancy of the social norm in her society do not allow her potential to be fulfilled.

“Emily: “But, Papa—I don’t want to get married” Mr. Webb: “Sh—Sh—Emily. Everything’s all right.” Emily: “Why can’t I stay for a while just as I am? Lets go away—” Mr. Webb: “No, no, Emily. Now stop and think a minute.” (79)

-View the world as gray -Many different spectrums in which to view the world from “Again his further words are -not Black and White covered by those of MRS. SOAMES … ‘Don’t know when I’ve seen such -Our Town completely contradicts this a lovely wedding. But I always theory cry. Don’t know why it is, but I -There is one view point from citizens of Our always cry. I just like to see Town: theirs young people happy, don’t you? -no gray areas; Oh, I think it’s lovely.” (81) extremely myopic -Mrs. Soames falsely assumes that since the -Very black and white; young couple is being married, they must be right or wrong

Post-Modern Theory
Scholarly Research: “When we move to drama the distinction between what is included in some projected world and what is included in some actual world becomes even more subtle to make out and fascinating to observe” (“Worlds of Work of Art,” by
Nicholas Wolterstorff)

happy. Post-Modern Theory is at work in this assumption because in Mrs. Soames’ eyes, marriage=good. There is no thought of “oh, but Emily is so intelligent. She can do better.” The reason Mrs. Soames always cries at weddings is symbolic that weddings in Grover’s Corners lead to the end of young women’s individuality. She does not know this is the reason for her tears because she is held hostage by the PostModern Theory, where she is meant to believe that all marriage=good.

-The projected world of Our Town is anti-PostModern Theory. In the real world, people are able to see in between right and wrong, but in Our Town, the inhabitants are so sheltered that they cannot view between the black and white. This is not an obvious observation but after much analysis and reading for depth, this fact is “fascinating to observe.” It is mentally impossible for people of Grover’s Corners to view their town and their lifestyle from the eyes of an outsider who holds different beliefs than their own.


Post-Modern Theory is the ability to view the world through many points of view. The irony of this theory is evident in Our Town because citizens for Grover’s Corners cannot see the world from a different point of view. The textual evidence exemplifies Mrs. Soames’ belief that all marriages are good and happy. She is unable to see the squashed potential Emily had to become a great asset to the country as a whole for her brilliant mind. The scholarly research points out how interesting it is to read about this myopic attitude and being able to realize how anti-Post-Modern Theory Our Town really is. The inability to see the world from a different viewpoint puts an end to anyone achieving complete individuality. Grover’s Corners inhabitants have been so sheltered their entire lives that they are completely unable to distinguish between right and wrong on their own.

The Critical Feminist Theory, Socio Cultural Theory, and Post-Modern Theory are all connected through Our Town. The Critical Feminist Theory explores the notion that Emily can only obtain her identity through marriage to George. Emily is not treated with equity in comparison to George because her education is wasted and she does not want to be married. This theory connects to the Post-Modern theory because although her desire to stay as she is and not marry is very strong, she knows that her town is not able to view her situation in a post-modern fashion. In Grover’s Corners, marriage=good and Emily cannot escape this false recollection. Emily is a victim to her own anti-Post-Modern viewpoint; she believes that there is no in between black and white for herself. She believes that she must marry now, or become an old maid. This lack of Post-Modern Theory feeds into the Socio Cultural theory in that Emily and George both feel the pressure from their society to marry. It is a social norm to marry at a young age, especially for Emily, and even though the young couple feels scared and does not want to go through with the marriage, the backlash of their cancelation would be too great to bear. It is part of life to be married, once and only once at a young age. Emily and George cannot break this tradition of marriage even though they want to because they would be ostracized from Grover’s Corners. This theory leads back to the Critical Feminist theory because it again shows the inequality between George’s opportunities at hand and Emily’s lack of opportunities. These three theories propose a never ending cycle of myopic views from the perspectives of Our Town characters.