Please comment on the title of the play The Autumn Garden by Lillian Hellman.

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Autumn Garden is an incredibly appropriate title of this play by Lillian Hellman. Why? Because it is a play primarily about the disillusionment that comes with middle age (especially that experienced during the mid 1900s).

The season of Autumn is significant in the title because it is the season that best represents middle age. It is the time of year when the crops are harvested and then become past their prime. The trees begin the journey to dormancy, the fruits begin to rot, and the annuals all begin to die. This is a perfect description of the characters in this play. The word “garden” is used in the title because the play is not merely about one character. Instead, it is about a whole group of characters who are reaching that time in their lives. All of the events in the play happen during the course of a week where the middle-aged characters become more and more despairing both with each other and with their own lives.

In conclusion, a reader should also note that the title The Autumn Garden can also nicely refer to the atmosphere of wealth that pervades the play. Wealth certainly doesn’t protect a person from growing older. Even though Autumn can be seen as a season of beauty (and wealth can be seen as a state of happiness), the truth is that all life gradually approaches death.

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