Thornton Wilder Quotes

Most popular Thornton Wilder Quotes

Doubt springs eternal in the human breast.

doubt breasts

Literature is the orchestration of platitudes.


I would love to be the poet laureate of Coney Island.
The best thing about animals is that they don't talk much.


Love is an energy which exists of itself.  It is its own value.


Enjoy your ice cream while it's on your plate—that's my philosophy.
— Thornton Wilder


Marriage is a bribe to make a housekeeper think she's a householder.


Enjoy your ice cream while it's on your plate — that's my philosophy.
— Thornton Wilder
The best part of married life is the fights.  The rest is merely so-so.


Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense.


Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?

life present moment

Hope, like faith, is nothing if it is not courageous; it is nothing if it is not ridiculous.


Many plays—certainly mine—are like blank checks.  The actors and directors put their own signatures on them.


Ninety-nine percent of the people in the world are fools and the rest of us are in great danger of contagion.


Man is not an end but a beginning. We are at the beginning of the second week. We are children of the eighth day.
— Thornton Wilder


There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.


There is nothing like listening to show you that the world outside your head is different from the one inside your head.
— Thornton Wilder


It is only in appearance that time is a river.  It is rather a vast landscape and it is the eye of the beholder that moves.


We do not choose the day of our birth nor may we choose the day of our death, yet choice is the sovereign faculty of the mind.


When you're safe at home you wish you were having an adventure; when you're having an adventure you wish you were safe at home.
— Thornton Wilder


My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it's on your plate—that's my philosophy.


The planting of trees is the least self-centered of all that we do.  It is a purer act of faith than the procreation of children.


Money—pardon my expression—money is like manure; it's not worth a thing unless it's spread around encouraging young things to grow.


Make sure that neither the favorable nor the unfavorable critics move into your head and take part in the composition of your next work.

writing advice

A dramatist one who believes that the pure event, an action involving human beings, is more arresting than any comment that can be made upon it.
— Thornton Wilder
I am convinced that, except in a few extraordinary cases, one form or another of an unhappy childhood is essential to the formation of exceptional gifts.

talent unhappiness childhood

A man looks pretty small at a wedding, George.  All those good women standing shoulder to shoulder, making sure that the knot's tied in a mighty public way.


The future author is one who discovers that language, the exploration and manipulation of the resources of language, will serve him in winning through to his way.

authors language

The important thing is that you make sure that neither the favorable nor the unfavorable critics move into your head and take part in the composition of your next work.


The theater is supremely fitted to say: "Behold!  These Things Are!"  Yet most dramatists employ it to say: "This moral truth can be learned from beholding this action."
— Thornton Wilder


The test of an adventure is that when you're in the middle of it, you say to yourself, "Oh, now I've got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home."


I borrow from other writers, shamelessly!  I can only say in my defense, like the woman brought before the judge on a charge of kleptomania, "I do steal, but, your Honor, only from the very best stores."


Nurse one vice in your bosom. Give it the attention it deserves and let your virtues spring up modestly around it. Then you'll have the miser who's no liar; and the drunkard who's the benefactor of the whole city.

vice & virtue

I constantly rewrite, discard, and replace the cycle of plays.  Some are on the stove, some are in the oven, some are in the waste-basket.  There are no first drafts in my life.  An incinerator is a writer's best friend.


On the stage it is always now: the personages are standing on that razor-edge, between the past and the future, which is the essential character of conscious being; the words are rising to their lips in immediate spontaneity.
— Thornton Wilder
I've never forgotten for long at a time that living is struggle. I know that every good and excellent thing in the world stands moment by moment on the razor-edge of danger and must be fought for—whether it's a field, or a home, or a country.


A sense of humor judges one's actions and the actions of others from a wider reference and a longer view and finds them incongruous.  It dampens enthusiasm; it mocks hope; it pardons shortcomings; it consoles failure.  It recommends moderation.

sense of humor

I discovered an important rule that I'm going to pass on to you.  Never support two weaknesses at the same time. It's your combination sinners—your lecherous liars and your miserly drunkards—who dishonor the vices and bring them into bad repute.

weakness sin

Now he discovered that secret from which one never quite recovers, that even in the most perfect love one person loves less profoundly than the other.  There may be two equally good, equally gifted, equally beautiful, but there can never be two that love one another equally well.