[P]eople are meant to go through life two by two. ’Tain’t natural to be lonesome.See Important Quotations Explained
The Stage Manager watches the audience return from intermission, and announces that three years have passed. It is now July 7, 1904, just after commencement at the local high school. The Stage Manager tells us that the first act was called “Daily Life,” and that this second act is entitled “Love and Marriage.” He says that a third act will follow, and that the audience can guess what that act will be about.
We witness another morning scene, much like the first, except this time it is raining heavily. Howie Newsome delivers milk and runs into the paperboy—now Si Crowell, the younger brother of Joe Crowell, Jr.—and Constable Warren. They discuss the impending marriage of George Gibbs. Si bemoans the fact that George will have to stop playing baseball. He says George was the “best baseball pitcher Grover’s Corners ever had.” The Constable and Si continue on their way, and Howie stops to chat at the Gibbs household, where Mrs. Gibbs is preparing for the wedding guests she expects to host later that day. Howie then crosses the yard and talks to Mrs. Webb. Their conversation reveals to the audience that George has become engaged to Emily Webb.
Back in the Gibbs’s kitchen, Dr. and Mrs. Gibbs reminisce about the morning of their own wedding. George comes downstairs and announces that he is going next door to see Emily. Mrs. Gibbs makes him put on overshoes because of the rain. George hurries across the yard, but Mrs. Webb will not let him see Emily because she believes it is bad luck for the groom to see the bride anytime on the wedding day prior to the ceremony. Mr. Webb agrees with this superstition, and Mrs. Webb runs upstairs to make sure Emily does not come down. Left alone, Mr. Webb and George awkwardly discuss weddings and the idea of what makes a happy marriage. The Webbs then shoo George out of the house.
The Stage Manager reappears and interrupts the action again. He announces that, before proceeding, we need to find out how George and Emily’s relationship began. We flash back to the beginning of George and Emily’s courtship, at the end of their junior year in high school. George and Emily appear onstage. George has just been elected president of his class, and Emily has been elected secretary and treasurer. Emily carries a handful of invisible books, which George offers to carry for her. As they walk home together, Emily remarks that a change has come over George since he became a local baseball star. She says he has become “conceited and stuck-up.” Although hurt, George takes her words to heart. Emily, suddenly mortified at her own bluntness, apologizes to George and begins to cry.
George tells Emily not to be concerned and invites her to have an ice-cream soda with him at the local drugstore. The Stage Manager dons spectacles and assumes the role of the druggist, Mr. Morgan. Emily and George sit at the counter and talk about the future. George talks about his tentative plans to go to the State Agriculture School. Throughout the conversation, however, George weighs the idea of continuing his formal education against the idea of staying in Grover’s Corners with Emily, revealing his fondness for her.
The Stage Manager takes off his spectacles and returns us to the day of the wedding. He waits and watches while stagehands clear away the chairs and tables and set up rows of pews at center stage. After announcing that he will now play the role of the clergyman and that the play is about to get “pretty serious,” the Stage Manager launches into a short sermon about the divine power that wills the existence of marriage and procreation and about the importance of marriage in human history.