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Lillian Hellman was born in 1906 and was the only child of a shoe merchant and a woman from Alabama. Her father’s job required her to spend half of the year in New York and the other half in New Orleans. These two different locations gave her a taste of two different worlds throughout her childhood. These two worlds are very often merged in her plays. New York showed her a money conscious world of her grandmother whose Sunday dinners resembled corporation meetings and New Orleans represented the fluttery spinsters and black servants. (Dick, 1)
She always knew she was going to be a writer ever since she was little and began to keep a journal. She realized “that an adolescent’s firsthand judgment was preferable to the tortured queries of old age.”(Dick, 1) Normally you would not expect Hellman to write for theater but she did not have skill for detail that fiction requires. In many of her plays the plot is based on an object such as a pen knife (Days to Come), a medicine bottle (The Little Foxes), a briefcase (Watch on the Rhine), and a bracelet (The Children’s Hour). Most of her plays have something to do with government and always have a problem that the characters have to solve using all of their ability and concentration.
Elizabeth Hardwick talks about how Lillian Hellman’s plays are “triumphs of craftsmanship”(Hardwick, 4). Her plays usually consist of actors facing misfortunate problems and then using great energy and skill to try to figure them out. Hellman fills her plays with crisis and chaos from secret letters to grand theft. It seems that sometimes her characters are so busy coming up with clever ways to solve these problems that you might forget what the plot is about. Her plays are entertaining and useful in commercial theater but sometimes a little to confusing for a person who is trying to figure out the characters.
David Hunt critiques Scoundrel Time which...
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