host of the play and the dramatic equivalent of an omniscient narrator.
The Stage Manager exercises control over the action of the play,
cueing the other characters, interrupting their scenes with his
own interjections, and informing the audience of events and objects
that we cannot see. Although referred to only as Stage Manager and
not by a name, he occasionally assumes other roles, such as an old
woman, a druggist, and a minister. Interacting with both the world
of the audience and the world of the play’s characters, he occupies
a godlike position of authority.
in-depth analysis of Stage Manager.
and Mrs. Gibbs’s son. A decent, upstanding young man, George is
a high school baseball star who plans to attend the State Agricultural
School after high school. His courtship of Emily Webb and eventual marriage
to her is central to the play’s limited narrative action. Wilder
uses George and Emily’s relationship to ponder the questions of
love and marriage in general.
in-depth analysis of George Gibbs.
and Mrs. Webb’s daughter and Wally’s older sister. Emily is George’s
schoolmate and next-door neighbor, then his fiancée, and later his
wife. She is an excellent student and a conscientious daughter.
After dying in childbirth, Emily joins the group of dead souls in
the local cemetery and attempts to return to the world of the living.
Her realization that human life is precious because it is fleeting
is perhaps the central message of the play.
in-depth analysis of Emily Webb.
father and the town doctor. Dr. Gibbs is also a Civil War expert.
His delivery of twins just before the play opens establishes the
themes of birth, life, and daily activity. He and his family are
neighbors to the Webbs.
mother and Dr. Gibbs’s wife. Mrs. Gibbs’s desire to visit Paris—a
wish that is never fulfilled—suggests the importance of seizing
the opportunities life presents, rather than waiting for things
to happen. At the same time, Mrs. Gibbs’s wish for the luxurious
trip ultimately proves unnecessary in her quest to appreciate life.
father and the publisher and editor of the Grover’s Corners Sentinel.
Mr. Webb’s report to the audience in Act I is both informative and
interactive, as his question-and-answer session draws the audience physically
into the action of the play.
mother and Mr. Webb’s wife. At first a no-nonsense woman who does
not cry on the morning of her daughter’s marriage, Mrs. Webb later
shows her innocent and caring nature, worrying during the wedding
that she has not taught her daughter enough about marriage.
gossipy woman who sings in the choir along with Mrs. Webb and Mrs.
Gibbs. Mrs. Soames appears in the group of dead souls in Act III.
One of the few townspeople we meet outside of the Webb and Gibbs families,
Mrs. Soames offers a sense of the interrelated nature of the lives
of the citizens of Grover’s Corners.
choirmaster, whose alcoholism and undisclosed “troubles” have been
the subject of gossip in Grover’s Corners for quite some time. Wilder
uses Mr. Stimson’s misfortunes to explore the limitations of small
town life. Mr. Stimson appears in the group of dead souls in Act
III, having committed suicide by hanging himself in his attic. He
is perhaps most notable for his short speech in Act III, when he
says that human existence is nothing but “[i]gnorance and blindness.”
younger sister. Rebecca’s role is minor, but she does have one very
significant scene with her brother. Her remarks in Act I—about the
location of Grover’s Corners in the universe—articulate an important
theme in the play: if the town is a microcosm, representative of
the broader human community and the shared human experience, then
this human experience of Grover’s Corners lies at the center of
a grand structure and is therefore eternal.
younger brother. Wally is a minor figure, but he turns up in Act
III among the group of dead souls. Wally dies young, the result
of a burst appendix on a Boy Scout trip. His untimely death underscores
the brief and fleeting nature of life.
local milkman. Howie’s reappearance during every morning scene—once
each in Acts I, II, and III—highlights the continuity of life in
Grover’s Corners and in the general human experience.
Joe Crowell, Jr.
The paperboy. Joe’s routine of delivering papers to
the same people each morning emphasizes the sameness of daily life
in Grover’s Corners. We see this sameness continue when Joe’s younger
brother, Si, takes over the route for him. Despite this sameness, however,
each of the conversations Joe has while on his route is unique,
suggesting that while his activities are monotonous, daily life
younger brother, also a paperboy. Si’s assumption of his brother’s
former job contributes to the sense of constancy that characterizes
Grover’s Corners throughout the play.
A professor at the State University who gives the
audience a report on Grover’s Corners. Professor Willard appears
once and then disappears. His role in the play is to interact with
the audience and to inform theatergoers of the specifics of life
in Grover’s Corners. His reference to Native Americans reflects
Wilder’s understanding that the European ancestors of the current
population in Grover’s Corners replaced and extinguished the existing
Native American populations.
A local policeman. Constable Warren keeps a watchful
eye over the community. His personal knowledge of and favor with
the town’s citizens bespeaks the close-knit nature of the town.
Webb’s cousin, who has left Grover’s Corners to travel west, but
returns for her funeral in Act III. Though originally from the town,
Sam has the air of an outsider. His unawareness of the events that
have occurred in Grover’s Corners during his absence parallels the
audience’s own unawareness.
town undertaker. Joe prepares Emily’s grave and remarks on how sad
it is to bury young people. This statement emphasizes a theme that
grows ever more apparent throughout the play and receives its most
explicit discussion in Act III: the transience of human life.