Thornton Wilder was an American playwright and novelist known for his innovative techniques and themes of morality and humanity in his work. He won three Pulitzer Prizes—for the novel 'The Bridge of San Luis Rey' and for the plays 'Our Town' and 'The Skin of Our Teeth'—and remains one of the most frequently performed American playwrights today.
This list of books are ONLY the books that have been ranked on the lists that are aggregated on this site. This is not a comprehensive list of all books by this author.
"The Bridge of San Luis Rey" is a novel that explores the nature of love and the meaning of life, set in 18th century Peru. The narrative revolves around a tragic incident where five people die when a rope bridge collapses. A Franciscan monk, who witnesses the accident, embarks on a quest to find out why these particular people had to die, hoping to prove that it was divine intervention. The book delves into the lives of the victims, revealing their personal stories, their hopes, dreams, and disappointments, as the monk attempts to decipher the cosmic significance of this tragedy.
This novel explores the aftermath of a mine explosion in a small Midwestern town at the turn of the 20th century, which leads to the wrongful conviction of a man for murder. Saved from the gallows by a mysterious stranger, the man flees to South America while his wife and children are left to navigate the social and financial fallout in their community. The narrative delves into themes of justice, faith, and the randomness of destiny, all set against the backdrop of America's industrial revolution.
3. Our Town
This play is a poignant depiction of life in a small American town called Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, at the turn of the 20th century. Through the everyday lives of its citizens, the narrative explores universal themes of love, marriage, mortality, and the passage of time. The story is narrated by a stage manager who directly addresses the audience and interacts with the characters, guiding viewers through the experiences of two families, the Gibbs and the Webbs. The play's minimalist staging and meta-theatrical elements emphasize the ephemeral nature of human existence, encouraging the audience to appreciate the beauty of life's ordinary moments.
4. Three Plays
This collection brings together three significant works by a renowned American playwright, each exploring the universal themes of life, death, and human connection in distinct settings. The first play is a metatheatrical commentary on the everyday lives of residents in a small town, revealing the profound in the mundane. The second play takes place in a purgatorial anteroom where deceased characters reflect on their past experiences and missed opportunities. The final play is a farcical satire set in ancient times, where characters confront issues of fate and free will. Together, these plays challenge audiences to consider the deeper meanings behind their existence and the shared experiences that define humanity.
"The Skin of Our Teeth" is a groundbreaking play that chronicles the enduring struggles and resilience of the human race through the allegorical story of the Antrobus family. Set in various eras of human history, the family confronts repeated catastrophes, including the Ice Age, a great flood, and a devastating war. With a blend of tragic and comic elements, the play employs a metatheatrical style, breaking the fourth wall and commenting on the nature of human existence. Through the cyclical trials and triumphs of the Antrobus family, the narrative emphasizes the persistence and adaptability of humanity in the face of constant challenges, encapsulating the spirit of survival against all odds.