Monday, December 15, 2014

On Thornton Wilder's "The Skin of Our Teeth"

On Thornton Wilder's "The Skin of Our Teeth": First performed in New Haven, Connecticut, in October 1942, The Skin of Our Teeth quickly moved to Broadway within a month. The play, which focused on the Antrobus Family from "Excelsior," New Jersey, eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1943. As for the play's author, Wilder possessed a brilliant, yet eccentric, literary mind. Born in the Midwest, he was the product of two Ivy League schools (Yale and Princeton), and briefly served in the U.S. military during both World Wars. Being in the military gave him the unique experience of constantly facing the prospect of non-existence. And it was this kind of "existential-extinctive" feeling/theme that recurs throughout The Skin of Our Teeth. Biblical allegories and references aside, (especially to Sodom and Gomorrah), the play places the reader in a fictional twentieth-century Jersey Shore town, which is on the verge of entering another Ice Age. Ironically enough, a devastating war catalyzed the town's ultimate demise. But at the play's end, it becomes abundantly clear that despite the pernicious capacity of mankind to destroy, it's our collective will to rebuild which always triumphs.

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