'The American plays set for study use expressionist and symbolist techniques in order to change people's perceptions of the world'

Essay by LIZAYA+, March 2004

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Thornton Wilder's 'Our town' is a widely studied piece which conforms to these notions of using expressionist and symbolic techniques in order to change peoples perception of the world around them. It is through such techniques Wilder illustrates his belief that human beings move about the world 'in a cloud of ignorance' unable to grasp the true beauty of the world about them until it is long disappeared, thus hoping to enlighten his audience to the simple fact that they unappreciated the gift of life so lovingly bestowed upon them.

One such obvious use of expressionist techniques can be seen in the use of the ever present stage manager, quite a rarity in these early days of expressionism, the stage manager acts as a form of narrator, directly addressing the audience and providing a constant link between our world and the world of the stage. The stage manager also has the power to inform the audience of the past and future, as well as commenting on the present.

Early in the play for example he tells us about the impending death of the passing paper boy Joe Crowell. "Goin' to be a great engineer, Joe was. But the war broke out and he died in France-". The character also allows for the introduction of Brectian style techniques within the play, i.e. 'He leans on the procillium pillar' such techniques break the illusion of the reality of the stage world, allowing the audience to better consider the message of ignorance.

Another device used can be seen in the use of simplistic set design. A pioneer of its kind simplistic set such as the bare tables, chairs and ladders showcased in this piece allow for the further use of Bretchian type techniques i.e the audience is constantly reminded that...