The Children’s Hour is a play by Lillian Hellman. It is set at the school Martha, her aunt, and Karen run. It begins by showing Mary being punished for coming to class late and lying to Martha’s aunt, Mary then tries to evade trouble by faking heart problems and fainting. Karen’s fiance Joe Cardin is a doctor that comes to treats Mary. Then Martha and her aunt have a row in the room next door which is overheard by two students Evelyn and Peggy. After Mary is said by Cardin to be healthy Mary is punished by Martha and Karen.
Mary complains loudly and runs away to her Grandmother’s where she lies to get out of school by accusing Martha and Karen to be lovers. Act two and three shows the results of Mary’s accusation and how it escalated to permanently destroy Matha and Karens life. It begins by having Karen, Martha, and Cardin confronting Mary. Mary sticks by her story and forces another student, Rosalie, using blackmail, to back her up. The confrontation ends in the grandmother going to court against Martha and Karen. They lose,they are both outcasted from the public and forced to shut down their school.
Karen leaves her husband because he questioned her and Martha’s relationship. Shortly after Cardin leaves Martha confesses her love for Karen, Karen rejects her. Martha shoots herself and the play ends. What I learned about this play is how one lie can spiral out of control and ruin people’s lives, and that you shouldn’t blindly believe everything you hear. That lies and rumors may seem innocent enough at first, but can truly do a lot of damage in the long run. This relates to modern teenagers because Martha and Karen’s situation is similar to teens today who are bullied.
Teens today cause drama by spreading rumors and lies about their peers for many different reasons like gossip, bullying, etc. The person who starts them may not realize the extent of their actions and could cause horrible pain to the one being bullied. Like in The Children’s Hour how Mary used the lie of Martha and Karen being lovers as a way to avoid being sent back to school, not to cause the death of one of her teachers. This is similar to teens today who can bully students into committing suicide with their words and actions just like Mary did.
If people didn’t go with the flow or questioned the purpose behind the things they hear it would be much easier to find the bit of truth hidden in the lies. My interpretation of Mary is not a positive one, she is a selfish bully who manipulates people and does not care how her actions affect others. She forces her own peers to cooperate against their will, like when she threatened to beat up Peggy for her money or used blackmail on Rosalie to make he lie for her. The teachers even comment on how much of a troublemaker and how spoiled she is thanks to her Grandmother.
Mary’s Grandmother is an upper class women who is very traditional and follows the rules. She is influential and this is shown when she is able to shut down Karen and Martha’s school by telling all the other parents to pull their children out. Mary’s Grandmother is stubborn too, when Martha and Karen try to argue against Mary’s accusation of being lovers she stands by Mary without wavering. Karen is a honest woman who works for what she wants. She wanted to live an honest, normal life with her fiance Cardin.
She is kind and loyal to those she cares about, like when she adamantly refused Cardin’s generosity to her, or when she refused to leave Martha alone after the scandal. Martha is a woman who keeps to herself and tries to conform even if it is not who she truly is. She hides her jealousy of Karen and Cardin, she hides her true feelings for Karen for years. She is scared to be who she is and only does so after she no longer has anything to lose. Martha only confessed her feelings after Karen left Cardin, and when rejected committed suicide. Rosalie is a girl ho does not want any trouble but is dragged into by Mary.
She would go to great lengths to stay out of it, Rosalie lies to Mary’s Grandmother to prevent Mary from tattling to the police about a bracelet she stole. Martha’s aunt is only concerned with herself. She leaves her job at a school to pursue her career as an actress and does not come back until she is broke. She does not come to Martha and Karen’s trial to testify. The Children’s Hour by Lillian Hellman is a play that is about when a student falsely ccuses her teachers of being lovers, causing a scandal that ruins their lives.
The play shows the damage, rumors, lies and bullying can do. It is still relatable to situations today. My interpretation of the characters show how their personalities each impact and intertwine into the story. Mary was the manipulator that started the scandal, her Grandmother was the one who took action. Rosalie was the one forced to support Mary’s claims which resulted in Martha and Karen being the s. When Martha and Karen have one last chance to prove their innocence at a court trial they ultimately lost because Martha Aunt did not show up to testify thanks to her selfishness.