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The Children's Hour, Lillian Hellman analysis
Transcript of The Children's Hour, Lillian Hellman analysis
The Children's Hour was first produced at Maxine Elliot's Theatre, New York City, on 20 November 1934, where it ran for over 2 years.
- while tragedy raises complicated questions of morality, melodrama reduces the questions to a simpler state.
- melodrama provokes the audience to be concerned primary with the outcome of a story: “Will Mary get away with her lies and manipulations?"
Main Dramatic Question
MDQ - Refers to particular thread of action that forms the running core of the play. Audience wonder what will happen in the future.
The Children's Hour - a typical
melodramatic play? (1)
Homosexualtiy in the play - a taboo topic
It never appears a direct mention to the words: lesbian or homosexual
Plan of the presentation:
- the characteristic of melodrama genre
- the main dramatic question in The Children's Hour play
- comparison of the play with "typical" melodrama characterized by David Rush and what meaning can the differences have.
- in the 1920's homosexuals received a level of acceptance. However in the time of the play USA became conservative. How does the author of the play cope with the topic of homosexuality?
Will Mary be able to make Mrs. Tilford stand on her side and against the school of Martha and Karen?
Will she succeed in revenging on Karen for “mistreating’ her?
- originally melodrama was partly sung, partly spoken. Meant to appeal to emotions rather that intellect.
Thank you for attention
Reference: Rush, D., "A student Guide to Play Analysis", ISBN-0809326094
The bad guy
The good guy
the one who manipulates the reality and spreads the scandal
Listen, Karen Wright and Martha Dobie brought a libel suit against a woman called Tilford because her grandchild had accused them of having what the judge -called "sinful sexual knowledge of one another."
- melodrama is focused on the plot rather than on the characters development.
- characters: normal, often one dimensional.
- The “good guy”: Karen“With her entrance there is an immediate change in the manner of the girls: they are fond of her and they respect her.”
- - The “bad guy”: Mary - blackmailing Rosaline of revealing the Helen Burton’s bracelet theft.
"ROSALIE (sniffling) But then you could tell me to do
The Children's Hour - a typical
melodramatic play? (2)
- world: between two forces: good and evil, man against man. Good almost always triumphs.
MARY And you'd have to do it. Say it quick or I'll-
- Melodrama play’s cat and mouse with a hero.
The final result
- The good and bad interacts in the battle for the truth.
- Mary (force of the evil) achieves her goal of not getting back to school. She is not sent away.
- She has her revenge over Karen and Mary
- She does not manage to keep Mrs' Tilford on her side.
"Mrs. Tilford: 1-I've talked to Mary. I've found out. (...) There will be a public apology and an explana- tion. The damage suit will be paid to you in full and- and any more that yoU: will be kind enough to take from me. 1-1 must see that you won't suffer any more.
All the characters know the connotations but nobody say it out loud
They never ask directly to Karen nor Martha about the truth (there is suspicion about the facts but nobody know what happened between them)
CARDIN: Now, Karen. What you've done, you've done-and that's that. KAREN: What I've done?
CARDIN (impatiently) What's been done to you. KAREN What did you mean? (When there is no answer) What did you mean when you said: "What you've done"?
CARDIN (shouting) Nothing. Nothing. (Then very quietly)
The only moment when it refers to it is in the Act III page 62:
Let’s say I will talk on the first part till the table (including slide 7). It will take me 8-10 mins depending on how elaborately I will talk on the table. Then you can enter with slide 8 (the summary of ideas of the play and what are the main differences and their meaning between the play and the “standard melodrama”) and the homosexuality issue. So in total it will take 15-20 mins. Is it okay with you?
We can meet at 15:10 in front of the classroom.
she never reveals the lie because she was blackmailed by Mary
her whole life was destroyed by the defamation. She loses her fiance (Cardin) and her friend (Martha)
She is the 'innocent' and the only one who tells the truth from the accusation
The truth comes out
Martha confesses her love to Karen
It never shows any erotic behavior or dialogue between the two women
"I've been telling myself that since the night we heard the child say it; I've been praying I could convince myself of it. I can't, I can't any longer. It's there. I don't know how, I don't know why. But I did love you. I do love you. I resented your marriage; maybe because I wanted you; maybe I wanted you all along; maybe I couldn't call it by a name; maybe it's been there ever since I first knew you"
but Karen denies Martha's feelings
"(tensely) It's a lie. You're telling yourself a lie. We never thought of each other that way"
Act III page 71
Act III page 71
(bitterly) No, of course you didn't. But who says I didn't? I never felt that way about anybody but you. I've never loved a man- (Stops. Softly) I never knew why before. Maybe it's that.
Homosexuality in the United States during the 30th's
The Children's hour deals with lesbianism but in a subtle way
the confession of Martha's homosexuality
There was censorship in that time
finally confesses her lie but does not show regret
Character's internal debate
tries to find forgiveness from Karen because of her wrong judgement
accepts her feelings to Karen and confesses her homosexuality. Finally commits suicide
realizes that Mary's lie was in part real. She rejects her marriage with Cardin and loses her friend
There is contradictory meanings on the play
Homosexuality look as a sin
You're fonder of Karen, and I know that. And it's unnatural, just as unnatural as it can· be. You don't like their being together. You were always like that even as a child. If you had a little girl friend, you always got mad when she liked anybody else. Well, you'd better get a beau of your own now-a woman of your age
Act I page 20
Act III page 72
Act III page 66