The Children's Hourby Lillian Hellman
Pub. Date: 06/01/1953
Publisher: Dramatists Play Service, Incorporated
One of the great successes of this distinguished writer. A serious adult play about two women who run a school for girls. A malicious youngster, trying to protect herself, starts an entirely unfounded rumor about the two women. When the young girl sees the rumor turn to scandal, she understands the power she wields and sticks by her story, which eventually precipitates tragedy for the women. Later it is discovered that the gossip was pure invention, but by that time, irreparable damage has been done.
The play is prefaced by an interview with the author by Harry Gilroy of the New York Times
- Dramatists Play Service, Incorporated
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- 5.32(w) x 7.77(h) x 0.23(d)
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Compelling. This play is largely character driven and driven by an event caused by a large and dangerous shortcoming or one character. This character lies. The personalities of the characters are prevalent very early on. Hints are given about the characters and the state of their constitution from the very start of the play. The smallest events seem to add to the big picture of who each character is, so by the end of the first act, the reader knows exactly who each character is, the way they think, see things, and how they function emotionally. None of the characters seem to be oddly extreme (which contributes to how relatable they are), and you don't really "hate" anyone. They are flawed, and you recognize that. Nobody really does anything wrong to be evil (the ones who believe the lie are simply trying to protect the children. The absent characters who can help are just uncomfortable and selfish. Even the lying child is just trying to get out of something she doesn't want to do. She is malicious, but that wasn't the main aim), but nobody really does anything devoid of consequences either. The flow is fantastic. There is a sense of tension in one way or another throughout the entirety of the play. Every character and every word has meaning and adds to the play. Hellman did a wonderful job of bringing these characters to life, providing insight, and making such relatable characters. She takes such a simple concept (a child's lie complicates the lives of four people--and ruins two of them) and creates a complex and compelling read.
This is indeed a beautiful play when it all comes together. Both ladies of the script are very well developed characters. It brings new thought to the overlooked mischief of children.
Lillian Helman's Children's Hour takes a pleasant school environment and turns it upside-down with one little lie. Amazing in its realistic relationships. If you thought you hated Abigail in Miller's Crucible, wait till you meet Mary.