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The Skin of Our Teeth

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  3,190 ratings  ·  59 reviews
A timeless statement about human foibles . . . and human endurance, this beautiful new edition features Wilder's unpublished production notes, diary entries, and other illuminating documentary material, all of which is included in a new Afterword by Tappan Wilder.

Time magazine called The Skin of Our Teeth "a sort of Hellzapoppin' with brains," as it broke from established
Paperback, 176 pages
Published April 15th 2003 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1942)
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Hamlet by William ShakespeareMacbeth by William ShakespeareThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar WildeRomeo and Juliet by William ShakespeareThe Crucible by Arthur Miller
Best Play Ever
102nd out of 423 books — 368 voters
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee WilliamsThe Crucible by Arthur MillerDeath of a Salesman by Arthur MillerThe Glass Menagerie by Tennessee WilliamsWho's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
Best American Plays
42nd out of 183 books — 268 voters

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Community Reviews

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The Skin of Our Teeth is a delightful, confusing mishmash of eras, telling the story of an American family who has weathered the Ice Age, Noah's flood, and war. The parents have been married for over 5,000 years and gave birth to Cain and Abel; the father invented the wheel, the alphabet, and chose Miss Atlantic City 1942. Every page in the book is thick with allusion, from the Muse sisters to the maid Sabina (who was raped; Wikipedia). I'm not sure I understood the half of it, but it was fun to ...more
Nick Ziegler
One of the most remarkable artworks I've encountered, and among the most appropriate to the end times we are living through.
I loved reading "Our Town" by Thornton Wilder, so I decided to read more of his works. This play, which breaks the fourth wall many times, revolves around a family and their maid as they face the Ice Age, the Great Flood and a seven year war. The father is George Antrobus (I think it means "human" in Greek) and the mother is Maggie Antrobus. Their children are Henry and Gladys. Sabina is the maid that often "breaks out of character" and becomes the actress playing Sabina, "Miss Somerset."
It's a
Jul 04, 2015 §-- rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: plays
Surreal, and difficult to follow, but funny.

The play has many features from Our Town, but it is in an altogether different mood. Whereas Our Town is a sincerely nostalgic, melancholy look at the splendor of some ordinary lives, The Skin of Our Teeth is a madcap, relentless comedy almost to the point of silliness.

Wilder presents us with a cyclical view of history. Much like Our Town, we are given 3 separate Acts of 3 different days/critical events, with nothing in between. Thousands of years pass
Wael Mahmoud
Our Town was a great novel, What happened to Wilder in this play!

The Skin of Our Teeth can't be a classic play or a modern one nor a realistic play or a Surreal one. Along with this problem of classified the play, it isn't a good play which one can enjoy reading and not watching, It may be enjoyable on the theatre.

The characters are very shallow, I know they suppose to play as symbols but not like that. One can't read a play focusing only on the meaning of the symbols and their actions.
My mother, who liked to read plays to her children, read us this. I can still remember lines like "the dogs are sticking to the sidewalks" [on a very cold day in the ice age] and "Pray God he [Mr Antrobus] has not met with some accident while crossing the Hudson River." The play is a super-fast run-through of human history from cave times to a day in the 1930s when all signs are that the world is about to end.

The high point I recall is the play within a play, a
marvelous section in which the hour
Laurence Li
The one line that sums up the entire play:

"have you milked the mammoth yet?"

Surreal, Meta beyond belief, occasionally harrowing, often hilarious, non-comprehensible half the time...but Wilder is a master at endings, and everything suddenly makes sense in the last ten pages. He's a master of exploring cosmic themes through everyday life.
Dylan Kawalec
God, this is a tough one to wrap your mind around, big time. But the foibles! The feminism, the democratic rights! The women's salvage! The everything, time and man kind all alike, the fact the humans and mammals are enteral beings cause they are interpreted as something that coincides side by side in the seemingly endless time we have. This book is amazing, and them struggling with not only the great storm, but the ice age itself is magnificent. And it represents that the bible has a huge impac ...more
Ich habe mich mit der Lektüre wirklich schwer getan. Das Stück ist definitiv keine Lektüre, mit der man am Ende eines Arbeitstages entspannen kann, sie verlangt volle Konzentration. Die Handlung besteht eigentlich nur aus drei Treffen der Familie Antrobus: während der Eiszeit, der Sintflut und während des Krieges. Sie ist allerdings auch verwirrend. Denn diese Familie bleibt sich über diese Katastrophen hinweg ziemlich gleich. In jedem Akt kommt diese vierköpfige moderne amerikanische Familie (d ...more
I love Our Town – one of my favorite shows of all time. (Back in the day, I played Emily’s mother. I was 18 at the time. Nowhere near old enough to play anyone’s mother. It was an odd production.) Apparently, this play’s another big deal by Wilder, so I thought, yes, I will read it! Oh, my. Well, I hate things like this, was the problem. It’s one of those satirical/farcical things (but it won a Pulitzer, so obviously I don’t know what I’m talking about) and the characters are (I think? It was wa ...more
Nicole P
pretty interesing, and a little out introduction to wildrer
My first encounter with an "absurd" play and I ate it up!!!!
یک نمایش نامه ی سه پرده ای تمثیلی دیگر از وایلدر، باز هم در شهری خیالی، خانواده ی آنتروبوس، در ابتدای قرن بیستم، در بامداد دوران یخبندان. ابتدا راوی، و سپس سابینا، خدمتکار خانه، برای تماشاگران روایت می کنند. میان افراد خانواده و شخصیت های کتاب مقدس، نوعی شباهت موازی هست. در میان کسانی که برای غذا و آتش به خانه ی آنتروبوس ها پناه می آورند، موسا، قاضی "عهد عتیق" هست، هومر شاعر یونان باستان و... بعدن آنتروبوس ها در مراسم سوگند جورج، رییس جمهور پستانداران شریف، حضور دارند. سابینا در نقش ملکه ی زیبای ...more
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A strange, beautiful play by Thornton Wilder that I first encountered as a freshman in high school but did not appreciate until I read it in mid-30's and got how it's a lot more than an allegory for the endurance of the human race, against all odds, but also for how we, as individuals, as families, as friends, as a community create and recreate ourselves and persevere in the face of... well, anything. Amazingly topical again, in light of the pre-occupation with the end of the world, world wars a ...more
Robert Kapeller
I hate Our Town.

This saves Thornton Wilder in my eyes. This one should be his pinnacle. It feels like what 2014 playwrights are currently trying to create. Wilder is incredible, with such a keen sense of experimental theatricality, ironic allegory, and witty dialogue. Read this play if you love the absurd, if you question humanity, or if you are fascinated by anachronism.
Not your Shakespearean playwright. You can enjoy a Wilder play without delving deeply into its meaning but if you're so inclined you can go for the meaty, historical and sociological bits. This is my favorite of Wilder's works.
Mar 10, 2012 Joseph added it
Shelves: 2012, plays
I had read the opening before and had I always loved the tone that he strikes--soft, ironic, fantastical. That's the world he ultimately gives to us although it did take me a while to get into it. The first act was hard (apparently lots of folks walked out of the first act when it first played) but the play gets more interesting as it goes on. I'd really be interested to see it play of course, although I would imagine that its very difficult to strike the right tone on stage--deciding how to dep ...more
Christine Boris
I've always liked The Matchmaker and Our Town by Thornton Wilder, but this's like he's channeling James Joyce. Very obtuse...maybe it needs to be seen on stage to understand it.
This is a heck of a thing to wander into after only having read "Our Town." My image of Thornton Wilder is blown. I mean: a forties family where the father is inventing the wheel and the alphabet? The family somehow blended up with adam and eve/noah/Napoleon? A maid who is alternatively hysterically putting in her two-weeks notice in face of the coming ice age and breaking character to complain how the play doesn't make sense? An act where they pretend half the cast gets food poisoning and there ...more
Given the reinterpretation of Wilder's career, and especially the staging of Our Town, wanted a taste of his writing. Interesting to see an Absurdist drama in the US during WWII. Read the Samuel French edition, with all the accompanying details on outfits and stage props and such.

Reading his bio in Wikipedia, also of interest his "relationship" w/ Samuel Steward.

Will read more Wilder. I find it intriguing that the man who wrote such works as "Our Town" and "The Bridge of San Luis Rey" (albeit e
Beth Roberts
Still lovely after all these years . . . though perhaps a bit dated. A good production could no doubt overcome that.
David Allen
One of my favorite plays of all time. It's so grand and far reaching, it exists in prehistory, the present and the end of time. There are dinosaurs in it. The mother of the household would do anything to preserve the works of Shakespeare. Every character is totally artificial and is totally aware that they are totally artificial.

It's one of those works that illuminates what's possible in writing and art, but is so dauntingly successful that it makes me wonder if it's even worth it to try and co
I'm a bit biased towards this play b/c I am currently rehearsing to play Sabina. She is my favorite character in the play b/c she is constantly breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience, which I love - she's hilarious and over the top, as is the whole play.

This was my first Thornton Wilder play to read and although I still don't get all the refrences I really enjoyed it. I am looking forward to checking out some of his ohter plays, most notably, "Our Town."
If you condensed everything comedic, tragic and weird about human history into a single narrative, you might come up with something like The Skin of Our Teeth. Thornton Wilder is one of the greatest playwrights in American history, and the proof is all over these pages. Wilder breaks down the barriers between myth and history, between truth and performance, and what remains is a fascinating and emotionally powerful piece of theater that deserves to be read as well as seen.
Nothing in the world will ever wrench my heart away from its intense love for Thornton Wilder. While OUR TOWN is easily my favorite play, THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH is a close second. I first saw it performed when I was a freshman in high school, and even with the exaggerated *~~*~*emotions*~*~*~ of my peers, the monologue by the mother about the secrets of women cut me to the damn core. Go read ALL OF THORNTON WILDER WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING ON THIS SITE??

Great dialogue but weird weird weird! Now I need to read reviews to figure out exactly what it all meant...
One of the most brilliant pieces of literature that I have read. Thornton Wilder is an acquired taste, and with the lead in from reading "Our Town", I was more than ready to read what is arguably his best work. The concept of the play is stunning and ingenious, and the constant shattering of the fourth wall adds so much depth, which is difficult considering most in the theatre world would consider it amateurish. Brilliant.
Abusrd. Surreal. Apocalyptic. Biblical. And witty! Who is satirizing who! or whom! What more could one ask? I saw then first act performed several years ago, I'd love to see a performance of the whole thing.

[Years later I come back to my review and I think, well, maybe. I didn't know how to wrangle my enthusiasm for so much of the text with the violence and " Jokes about rape!" that are also part of it.]
Neil Aring
Farcical romp through the history of humankind stumbling resolutely from one disaster to the next.
Looking forward to seeing this brought to life at the Curtain Players Theater next season.
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Thornton Niven Wilder was an American playwright and novelist. He received three Pulitzer Prizes, one for his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey and two for his plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth, and a National Book Award for his novel The Eighth Day.
For more see
More about Thornton Wilder...
Our Town The Bridge of San Luis Rey Three Plays: Our Town/The Skin of Our Teeth/The Matchmaker The Eighth Day The Ides of March

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“I didn't marry you because you were perfect. I didn't even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn't a house that protected them; and it wasn't our love that protected them--it was that promise.” 51 likes
“Each new child that’s born to the Antrobuses seems to them to be sufficient reason for the whole universe’s being set in motion; and each new child that dies seems to them to have been spared a whole world of sorrow, and what the end of it will be is still very much an open question.” 1 likes
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