Our Town is one of the greatest works by Thornton Wilder. A work that contributed to him winning the Pulitzer Prizes. Wilder was known to create stories that transcended times, and thus his works remain relevant today. In Our Town captures people’s lives in a small town leading their everyday, monotonous and dull lives, representing how real life is and how most of us experience it (McIntyre, 2020). However, using one of the main characters, Emily, the narrator can show us a very different perspective of life. This different angle and approach come from viewing life after being given a second chance.
After Emily died, the narrator stated God gave her the chance to choose a day of when she would want to return to after feeling unsettled in the land of the dead. Emily chooses her 12th birthday, one of the most important days in her life. From her eyes, we see how much people do not appreciate their lives or being alive. It was a case of we do not appreciate life until we lose it. She realized that her life was seemingly dull and essential because she chose not to appreciate the small thing about life. For example, during her second chance at her 12th birthday, she saw that George, her husband, had brought her a very thoughtful gift, but she forgot about it and never paid much attention to it (Wilder, 2000). On the other hand, her mother was too busy and never gave her the attention she wanted. It showed we are preoccupied with things that do not matter.
Observing the living on that day, she granted she noticed everyone cruised through life as she did. People tramped over the emotions and feelings of people and acted in very selfish ways. The thought that death is far and we have control over our lives explains people’s pride when alive. This pained Emily as she wished she had a way to tell people, especially her mother, to enjoy life and appreciate it. Because she could not communicate that to them, she felt helpless and asked to return to the land of the dead.
Mcintyre. (2020). Thornton Wilder as Thaumaturge. Thornton Wilder Journal, 1(1), 58. https://doi.org/10.5325/thorntonwilderj.1.1.0058
Wilder, T. (2000). Our Town. Penguin Books.
Emily Webb, in the beginning, comes across as conceited and self-centered. That is, that she is constantly aggravating her mother about if she thinks she is pretty enough to catch a beau (Films Media Group, 1940). Additionally, Emily thinks that she is the smartest kid in her class and does not particularly want to share that knowledge with anyone else, including George, her next-door neighbor who walks her home from school every day (Films Media Group, 1940). George does state that he is struggling with math and would like Emily to assist him that evening by being by her window and him by his window, both doing their assignment together (Films Media Group, 1940). Emily agrees (Films Media Group, 1940).
Emily’s family also plays a key role in this play. While Emily’s mother is downstairs early every morning fixing breakfast for the bunch, Emily and her siblings are upstairs still sleeping until Myrtle Webb (mother), calls them several times to get up and come down to breakfast so they could eat before they hurried off to school (Films Media Group, 1940). Emily’s father is Charles Webb, the town’s editor and a mediator in the cast who helps to oversee the town’s people and assist with telling the story of the town of Grover’s Corner (Foertsch, 2017). In addition, I believe that Emily does not appreciate the arduous work her mother puts in everyday to prepare the children for school.
Unfortunately, it is not until Emily’s death after she marries George, that she sees the effort her mother has put in for her to make everything right for her (Long, 2021). Emily is discouraged by the people in the cemetery about going back to look at her life again because they know that that will bring extreme heartbreak and sorrow to her, (which at that point, Emily can do nothing about it) (Long, 2021). Much to everyone’s dismay, Emily goes back to see herself and her family on her 16th birthday (Long, 2021). What she finds is that she is unappreciative, and no one looks anyone in the eye to make that personal connection with one another (Long, 2021).
Emily cries about the loss of her beloved family and says, “Momma, I’m here. I’m all grown up. I love you all, everything. I can’t look at everything hard enough,” (Long, 2021, p. 39). Emily is distraught and wants the family to acknowledge one another and recognize each other as important individuals who love each other and show it. Unfortunately, it never happens. Emily is left feeling empty and lost but realizes that she must return to the cemetery and continue her life as a spirit and she says, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every, minute?” (Long, 2021, p. 39).
As it is noted by Howard Sherman, (2018), shows the attitudes of those in the cemetery regarding the people they loved and lost, as Sherman states plainly, that we should make a difference in life while we are still able to and not wait until it is too late, (p. 46). Also, according to Sherman, (2018), goes on to say by quoting the stage manager at the end of the play, “the earth part of [us] burns away,” (p. 46). Meaning that at that time, there is no more time to appreciate, love, and care for those we are around, and we should do that while we still have time to do so.
1). Films Media Group. (1940). Our town. Films On Demand. Retrieved November 13, 2021, from https://fod.infobase.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wid=104983&xtid=56705.
2). Foertsch, Jacqueline. (2017). American Drama. Macmillan International Higher Education
3). Long, T. G. (2021, May 19). Is Our Town everybody’s town? The Christian Century, 138(10), 38.
4). Sherman, H. (2018). Something Eternal. American Theatre, 35(3), 44–46.
Shock incarceration, boot camps, and work ethic camps are all alternatives to incarceration. Incarceration has been found to have negative effects on offenders therefore some agencies will give the offender alternative options. Shock incarceration places an offender in incarceration for a brief period of time, allowing them to see the reality of prison without actually gaining the negative side effects from it. (Alarid, 2019). Due to the placement of shock incarceration being inside traditional correctional facilities, the participants in the shock incarceration get to see regular offenders in a prison setting without actually obtaining any physical contact. (Anderson & Dyson, 1997). Another form of shock incarceration is boot camps. Boot camps have been around since the early 1980s. Boot camps adopted a military style regimen to give offenders a sense of discipline. This military concept is designed to attempt to break existing habits and thought patterns to deter individuals away from the criminal lifestyle. Unlike shock incarceration, you can find boot camps inside state prisons or acting alone as a community facility. (Alarid, 2019). Another goal of boot camps is to take away the negative rationale and excuses that most offenders have for their impulsiveness and illegal behavior. (Anderson & Dyson, 1997). Work ethic camps are similar to boot camps except they last only one-hundred and twenty days. The approach of work ethic camps stems from a cognitive-behavioral treatment approach. The work ethic camp is very similar to a halfway house because it is a combination of work and treatment. Work ethic camps teach job and decision-making skills. Once the offender has completed the work ethic camp, they are subject to an intensive supervision probation. (Alarid, 2019).
Of the three, I believe that shock incarceration would be the most effective in changing the offender’s behavioral patterns. I chose shock incarceration because I believe that if anything is going to change the ways of an individual that chooses a criminal lifestyle, it would be seeing the reality of prison. Once an individual sees how rough prison can be, I believe it would be enough to change their minds and to make better decisions.
Alarid, L. F. (2019). Community-based corrections. This commitment.
Anderson, J. F., & Dyson, L. (1997). A Four Year Tracking Investigation on Boot Camp Participants: A Study of Recidivism Outcome. Justice Professional, 10(2), 199. https://doi.org/10.1080/1478601X.1997.9959462
Within our class text, it addresses the various forms of intermediate sanctions. Intermediate penalties were created by the criminal justice system of the United States and were created in order to help alleviate the overcrowding of the prison system. It was then used as an alternate deterrent and to track criminals who were not subject to the normal rules of probation and who were not imprisoned either (Knoji, 2020). These punishments encourage the justice system to use for offenses that require stricter penalties than would be given by probation and would not be as harsh as being put into the jail system.
The work ethic camp is a 120-day prison option that teaches job skills and decision-making using a cognitive-behavioral approach, accompanied by intensive probation supervision. When the 120-day program has been completed by participants, they are released under intensive probation supervision (Alarid, 2018).
Correctional boot camps are correctional facilities modeled after military basic training, also known as shock incarceration programs. The Boot Camp helps to break down criminals and then retrain them to respect authority, improve self-control and behave responsibly. Therapeutic and educational programs, such as drug and alcohol education, individual or group therapy, career training, anger management and college education, are also offered by active correctional boot camps (Alarid, 2018).
In my opinion I think that the work ethic camps would be more successful for most offenders. They would get a chance to get help and be a part of society and learn new skills and learn how to be a successful person but then also being supervised heavily.
Alarid, L. F. (2018). Community-Based Corrections. [Savant Learning Systems]. Retrieved from https://savantlearningsystems.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781337670449/
Knoji. (2020). What Are Intermediate Sanctions? The Criminal Justice System in the United States. Retrieved from https://criminal-law.knoji.com/criminal-justice-what-are-intermediate-sanctions/