An Unfinished Woman Essay - Masterplots II: Women’s Literature Series An Unfinished Woman Analysis

Lillian Hellman

Masterpieces of Women's Literature An Unfinished Woman Analysis

Hellman’s choice to write a memoir rather than an autobiography affects not only the way she presents her politics but also the way she views her writing career. Several reviewers of An Unfinished Woman noted that she said relatively little about her career as a distinguished playwright. What had it meant to write both screenplays and dramas? What were the influences on her writing? These questions are addressed obliquely. She meets Ernest Hemingway in Spain and writes about his hard-boiled personality, but it is not clear whether she recognizes that his style has influenced hers. Similarly, she tells amusing anecdotes about her period in Hollywood and vividly re-creates the flavor of her stay there, but it is not clear what it meant to her to be a screenwriter or how she viewed the extraordinary privilege Samuel Goldwyn gave her of working alone at a time when almost no writer was given the sole responsibility of developing a screenplay. In other areas of her life, Hellman is equally reticent. She mentions her psychiatrist, Gregory Zilboorg, for example, but the reader learns very little about him, why she turned to him, or what place psychoanalysis held in her life.

Hellman is candid and penetrating, however, on the subject of her own irritability. She presents herself as a willful, spoiled only child and realizes that her upbringing gave her tremendous strength but also blinded her, in certain respects, so that she acted before she had thought out her reasons for doing so. She also tends to be dismissive of people she does not like or...

(The entire section is 640 words.)