The play is a touching picture of the life of a small England community. It is divided into three Acts, each one introduced by a revealing title. There is a Stage Manager who, as a sort of narrator/character and chorus, introduces the characters and comments on the action, which takes place in Grover's Corner's, a fictional ton in New Hampshire, from 1901 to 1913.
Act I: Daily Life - The Stage Manager begins describing the routine life of the small town, focusing on two neighboring families and two, that of Editor Webb, his wife and his two children Emily and Wally, and that of Dr Gibbs, who also has a wife and two children, George and Rebecca. Both families are busy with the same kind of things and the children eventually go off to school. When night comes down, drunken Simon Stimson keeps rolling around a little and the town Constable makes his usual rounds to ensure all is well. A typical day in Grover's Corners is over.
Act II: Love and Marriage - Three years have gone by. George an dEmily are about to be married, but the Stage Manager suddenly interrupts the scene and, dismissing the characters on stage, describes to the audience the courtship of the young couple (who eventually re-enter) preceding their marriage. The Act culminates in a moving wedding scene.
Act III: Death - It is 1913 now. Nine years have gone. Some of the characters have died including Mrs Gibbs, Wally and Simon Stimson, who committed suicide, and are now sitting, patient and quite on some chairs facing the audience and representing the graves in Grover's Corners cemetery, on a hilltop.
It is raining, A funeral procession arrives, soon followed by the ghost of Emily, who has died in childbirth of her second son. Given the choice to go back to earth, and disregarding the advice of some of the dead, inducing her mother- in-law and Stimson, Emily chooses to re-live her twelfth birthday. But it proves to be a painful experience and she returns among the dead.