One of America’s first and most successful female playwrights, Lillian Hellman began her dramatic career at the age of twenty-nine with The Children’s Hour. With 691 performances, it was her longest-running play. A book reviewer and a reader for films and playscripts, Hellman read an account of an early nineteenth century Scottish trial, “The Great Drumsheugh Case,” about a child’s false accusations ruining reputations. This, Hellman’s first play, contains nearly all the themes and dramatic devices used in her other eleven dramas. Hellman created many ambitious female characters who, by greedy overreaching, leave death and destruction in their wake. Mary Tilford’s ruthless manipulation of her classmates and wealthy grandmother to wield power over them is echoed in many other Hellman characters who seek undeserved power or wealth. Amelia Tilford’s family loyalty in believing her granddaughter’s contrived distress (over her better judgment) leads to several deaths: of the girls’ school, of Karen and Joe’s relationship, and of Martha through her suicide. Other Hellman plays such as The Little Foxes (1939) trace how distorted family allegiances result in ethical compromise and devastation. Mrs. Tilford’s belief at the end that money will relieve her conscience and Karen’s pain demonstrates Hellman’s harsh criticism of the wealthy classes and capitalism.
Traits found in all other Hellman plays make their debut here: a fast-moving plot using secrecy and increasing suspense, sparse detail about the past, and deftly drawn characters who speak everyday language. In her first play, Hellman introduces blackmail, a device that resurfaces in all her drama. Mary blackmails Rosalie, a petty thief, into supporting her story about Karen and Martha inappropriately kissing. This is an example of the terror inflicted on victims in other Hellman plays.
The play has been called dated because of its typical Hellman melodramatic style—obviously evil...
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Lillian Hellman's Feminist Concern in the Children's Hour Essay
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Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations
That is known as the Children's Hour.
<em>_</em><em>_ Henry Wadsworth. Longfellow, "The Children's Hour"
And every word will have a new meaning. You think we'll be able to run away from that? Woman, child, love, lawyer -- no words that we can use in safety anymore. Sick, high-tragic people. That's what we'll be.
_</em><em>_</em> Lillian Hellman, The Children's Hour
While Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Children's Hour" as quoted above eulogizes the happy hour for the children to play "between dark and daylight", Lillian Hellman's play by the same name deals with a dark hour when…show more content…
This paper intends to study her feminist concern with women's independence at central stake in the play, though she herself declines to be even a female writer by saying "I am a playwright....You wouldn't refer to Eugene O'Neill as one of America's foremost male playwrights." (Wright, 85) Sally Burke insists Hellman deserves a place among the feminist playwrights of the era between the first and second waves of the women's movement for more than just one reason. To start with, her work meets with the meets the criteria of what playwright Megan Terry has said "anything that gives women confidence, shows them to themselves, helps them to begin to analyze, whether it's a positive or a negative image, is nourishing", and Vivian Patraka has called herself "The Dramatist of the Second Sex" to add to the fact. Moreover, her work has "dramatized the inequalities of a patriarchal, capitalist system; repeatedly exposed instances of injustices and oppression; and was committed