Lillian Hellman

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Comparing Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour and The Little Foxes.

Lillian Hellman was a well-known American dramatist who was born in 1905 in New Orleans ("Hellman," 1999). She later moved and attended New York public schools and went on to go to New York University and Columbia University as well. Within the confines of her youth, there had been confusion about her family background (Harmon, 1999). There has always been talk about her parents troubled marriage and other events have cropped up to make Hellman an intriguing figure. Yet, she went on to grow up and find a husband, something typical in her day. She married another playwright named Arthur Kober, but this relationship ended in divorce ("Hellman," 1999; James, 1999). Her intimate friendship with the novelist Dashiell Hammett would continue until his death in 1961 (1999). Yet, Hellman would never remarry.

Hellman did not begin to write plays until the 1930s, her dramas are well known for focusing on various forms of evil ("Hellman," 1999). Her work has not escaped criticism however. She has been criticized at various times for her doctrinaire views but she nevertheless kept her characters from becoming social points of view by including credible dialogue and a realistic intensity which put her a step above her peers ("Hellman," 1999). Indeed, Hellman wrote with the skill of a professional but the emotions of a child. I feel she was able to capture the innermost fears and thoughts of people, drawing on their most hideous features. In the encyclopedia Hellman is described as an American Dramatist, whose plays are distinguished for the forcefulness of their matter, usually a condemnation of personal and social evil. They are also notable for character development and expert construction (Encarta). These points come through clearly in both The Children's Hour and The Little Foxes. Interestingly, Hellman seemed to entitle these works in an innocuous but mischievous way.

In a variety of works, it appears that Hellman’s themes have all centered around evil and lies. They have drawn on things that, for the most part, people do not like to look at. Her works are truly disturbing, as she forces the audience to dig deep into their own psyches. It is important to note that Hellman had grown up in interesting times. She was a teenager in the Roaring ...

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...x Plays by Lillian Hellman.

New York: Vintage Books. pp. 1-78

Hellman, L. (1979). "The Little Foxes." Six Plays by Lillian Hellman. New York: Vintage Books. pp. 147-199

James, C. (1999, May 31). "That 50's Cocktail of Hellman, Hammett and the Red Scare." New York Times, pp. E1.

Kaupunginkirjasto, K. (2000, July 22). "Lillian Hellman (1905-1984)"


McHenry, R. (1995, December 20). "Hellman, Lillian (biography), Her Heritage: A Biographical Encyclopedia of famous American women" <electronic library>

Reuben, P. (2000, July 22). "Chapter 8: American Drama-Lillian Hellman." PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- AA research and reference guide. [online]<>

Webb, K. (2000, July 22). "It’s all a lie: Destructive dishonesty in the works of Lillian Hellman." [online]<>

Wright, W. (1996, November 3) "Why Lillian Hellman remains fascinating."

New York Times pp. H9.
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