Thornton Wilder

From Academic Kids

Thornton Wilder (April 17, 1897December 7, 1975) was an American novelist and playwright.

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Born Thornton Niven Wilder in Madison, Wisconsin, he was the son of a U.S. diplomat, spending part of his childhood in China. His older brother, Amos, and three younger sisters, Charlotte, Isabel and Janet, were also accomplished writers. He also had a twin brother who died at birth. He began writing plays while at The Thacher School in Ojai, California, where he did not fit in and was teased by classmates as over-intellectual. According to a classmate, “We left him alone, just left him alone. And he would retire to the library, his hideaway, learning to distance himself from humiliation and indifference."

After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War I, he attended Oberlin College before earning his B.A. at Yale University in 1920. Six years later, his first novel The Cabala was published. In 1927, The Bridge of San Luis Rey brought him commercial success and his first Pulitzer Prize in 1928. From 1930 to 1937 he taught at the University of Chicago. World War II saw him rise to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force and receive several awards. He went on to be a visiting professor at the University of Hawaii and to teach poetry at Harvard. Though he considered himself a teacher first and a writer second, he continued to write all his life, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963. He died in his sleep, December 7, 1975 in Hamden, Connecticut, where he had been living with his sister Isabel for many years.

Wilder was good friends with a large number of writers including Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, Montgomery Clift and Gertrude Stein. Wilder never married. Although he never discussed his homosexuality publicly or in his works, his close friend Samuel M. Steward is considered to have been his lover.


Wilder authored numerous novels, plays, and a variety of shorter works including essays, one act plays, and scholarly articles. He also translated and wrote the libretti to two operas. Alfred Hitchcock, whom he admired, asked him to write the screenplay to his thriller, Shadow of a Doubt.

Wilder was the author of Our Town, a popular play (and later film) set in fictional Grover's Corner, New Hampshire. Our Town employs a choric narrator called the "Stage Manager" and a minimalist set to underscore the universality of human experience. (Wilder himself would play the Stage Manager on Broadway for two weeks and later in summer stock productions.) The play won the 1938 Pulitzer Prize. Wilder suffered from severe writer's block while writing the final act.

His play The Skin of Our Teeth debuted in 1943 with Fredric March and Tallulah Bankhead in the lead roles. Again, the themes are familiar--war, pestilence, economic depression, fire. Ignoring the limits of time and space, just four characters and three acts are used to review the history of mankind.

The Matchmaker, a farcical play based on Austrian playwright Johann Nestroy's Einen Jux will er sich machen (1842), was adapted into the musical Hello, Dolly! by Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman.

His last novel, Theophilus North, was published in 1973.

Novels by Thornton Wilder


External links

eo:Thornton WILDER ja:ソーントン・ワイルダー


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