Lillian Hellman American Literature Analysis
A very strong sense of morality pervades both Hellman’s plays and her memoirs. Melodrama suits her as a literary form because it stresses the conflict of good and evil. Clashing personalities, rather than development of individual character, spark her sense of drama. In The Children’s Hour, two blameless schoolteachers are accused of lesbianism by a malevolent, spoiled child whom they have tried to discipline. In The Little Foxes, the greed of the members of a single family, competing among themselves in the post-Civil War South, is what motivates their actions. In Watch on the Rhine, the selfless heroism of Kurt Muller is set against the irremediable evil of the Fascism he fights. It is no accident, therefore, that Hellman should also be attracted to historical figures, such as Joan of Arc in The Lark (1955), who oppose the status quo and search for a sense of moral authority. That play reveals the extent to which Hellman trusted individuals rather than the state.
If Hellman were merely a melodramatist, however, her work would not remain in such high standing. When her characters do not develop to any great extent, they are the products of acute psychological perceptions. Kurt Muller, for example, with his broken hands, is a vulnerable, frightened hero, forced to kill for his cause with a melancholy determination and an absolute lack of self-righteousness that make him interesting in himself and not merely a symbol...
(The entire section is 3569 words.)
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