Thornton Wilder's play reveals how life is like in a typical small town, in Grover's Corner. It was first published in 1938.
At first the stage manager presents the town. He explains where the most important buildings and locations are situated. Afterwards an everyday morning is simulated. You see simultaneously Mrs. Webb and Mrs. Gibbs, each on one side of the stage, preparing the breakfast for their families and waking up their children for school. Mrs Gibbs claims that her son does not help her to chop wood, but thinks only about baseball. Dr. Gibbs does not punish George, but declares he will give his son more pocket-money, because he is older now and has more responsibilities. In the meantime Rebecca is telling her mother that she is not satisfied with her clothes she should wear. In the other house, Mrs Webb forces her children to eat breakfast and forbids Wally to put books on the table. When a bell rings the children say goodbye to their parents and go off to school. While the kids are at school the stage manager gives the audience more information about Grover's Corner, like the number of inhabitants and the social problems of this town. After school Emily promises George to help him with his problems in algebra, since she is the best in the class. In addition George reveals his plan to take over his uncle's farm after he has finished school.
The 2nd act takes place on the wedding day. Mrs. Gibbs fears that her son won't be able to get along alone. After Mrs. Gibbs has compared their son's wedding with their own, she states that weddings are something you have to come over. It's never easy to make it: "Frank, weddings are perfectly awful things. Farces - that's what they are!" Then George goes to Emily's house to see her, but her parents prevent him. They remind him that the groom can't see the bride on the wedding day before she is in church. So they argue whether this is a superstition or not. Furthermore they talk about George's future as a farmer and as a husband. Mr. Webb gives him some advice how he should treat his wife. Then the Stage Manager interrupts the story to show how the relationship between Emily and George began. In a flashback the future couple is still going to school. They are on the way from the school. Both are happy because George was elected President of Junior Class while Emily was elected Secretary and Treasurer. As they are walking home Emily complains about George's behaviour. In the last year he has changed and now he only thinks about baseball. She has a clear picture of how a man has to be - perfect like her father - but she knows that she herself is not perfect. George isn't mad about her criticism, but thankful. He has not noticed this fault in his character until she made him aware of it. Therefore he treats her to an expensive soda ice-cream: "I'm celebrating because I've got a friend who tells me all the things that ought to be told me." Then George talks about his plans for the future. He won't go to agriculture school and will try to improve his character. After this the Stage Manager leads the audience back to the wedding. Everyone is already in the church and both, Emily and George are very nervous. Since they can't think clearly they doubt if this is the right decision, but in the end they do marry.
In 1913 Emily dies in childbirth. In the cemetery the dead are talking about Emily's death without any emotions, since they are not interested in what is going on among the living any more. They are just waiting for the eternal part. However, Emily is still connected to the world of the living. This is the reason why she decides to go back to her 12th birthday, 11th February 1899 and does not follow the advice of the dead ancestors to forget life. After a while she cannot stand watching herself and her family any more and asks to go back to her grave. She realizes what is important in life and that human beings are blind and do not recognize what life is: "That's all human beings are! Just blind people." Finally the Stage Manager slowly draws the curtain from the left to the right while he speaks his closing words: "Eleven o'clock in Grover's Corner - You get a good rest, too. Good night."