The Children's Hour
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The Children's Hour

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  6,292 ratings  ·  71 reviews
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Paperback, 124 pages
Published January 11th 2005 by Kessinger Publishing (first published January 1st 1953)
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Eve
About 8 years ago, I had a sort of emotional crisis. I just couldn't deal with the compounded pressures of life, and most especially the breakdown of an intimate relationship, along with the sudden onset of serious illness of a parent. I quit my job, and camped out on my bed for a month watching the AMC and TCM network nonstop. I'm sure you're picturing an unbathed, unshaven me, in weeks old Garfield pajamas, and dirty cereal bowls piled precariously high on one nightstand. I assure you, it was...more
Lori
Abigail Williams (The Crucible) is one of the most hateful literary characters I've ever come across - she's high up on my top 5. Mary Tilford, the little demon, may just have kicked Abigail down a notch on my Characters I Hate the Most list. Although this is a work of fiction, it is scary to think how very possible it is for a bully to intimidate others into spinning a web of lies that can ruin people's personal and professional lives. How someone who has always done right by everyone and worke...more
Jen
I remember being floored by this play when I first read it in high school, not the least reason being we were assigned to read a play with a lesbian theme in a Catholic school! I would say that this is similar to "The Crucible" with a lesbian relationship substituting for witchcraft--except Hellman's play was written 18 years before Miller's. Ultimately it's about the devastating effects of malicious gossip.

I read online that Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss (from 'Mad Men') starred in a Lond...more
Josh Kight
This play has really stood the test of time to become one of the most horrifying and saddening plays ever written. Readers need to understand that the play is less about lesbianism and more about a specific lie. Maybe Hellman did consider lesbianism just a plot device. But "unnatural" love and society's disapproval of it are fundamental to the play, just as anti-Semitism is central to The Merchant of Venice. Readers still argue over whether Shakespeare was criticizing or endorsing the prejudice...more
Roxanne
Summary: Martha and Karen are best friends running a school for girls in the early thirties. They have a very close relationship, and their extremely manipulative pupil, Mary, decides to play with this well known fact and start a rumor that they are intimately involved. This rumor starts total uproar as their lives, as they once knew them, are destroyed through prejudice and the power of gossip.
Why it was meaningful: This is an incredibly well written play, absolutely incredible. It blows my mi...more
Arielle
Compelling. This play is largely character driven and driven by an event caused by a large and dangerous shortcoming or one character. This character lies. The personalities of the characters are prevalent very early on. Hints are given about the characters and the state of their constitution from the very start of the play. The smallest events seem to add to the big picture of who each character is, so by the end of the first act, the reader knows exactly who each character is, the way they thi...more
MariLisa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jonathan
Our setting is a school run by two women, friends since college. When they punish Mary, one of the students, for faking a heart attack, she runs to her grandma and tells her about how the two women are lesbians. It's an interesting, certainly sad story once everything plays out, but it never reaches the emotional height I was preparing myself for. Mary is perhaps the best character, incredibly devilish and controlling, but her disappearance from the second half weakens the whole structure--no on...more
Suzanne
Lillian Hellman's great play "A Children's Hour" is the story of two women who run a private school for girls and whose lives are ruined by the evil and vindictive accusations of one of their students. The implications of lesbianism and society's intolerance for differences are among the many themes addressed in this fine work. I believe it is timeless but others may see it as dated. Guilt by accusation remains as much a part of our society as ever...sadly. The inference that homosexuality is eq...more
Annie
When I took part in a production of this play in december, 2010, we discussed thoroughly the power of a lie. A lie told convincingly has the power to alter the opinions one holds of another. But an expertly crafted lie can also cause the victim to doubt themselves:"Why is it that so many people are so willing to believe this lie? Is there some truth within this lie?" A challenging play I was proud to take part in, even if I was only in the first scene).
Sabrina
Rumor has it...... Classic story of what can happen when a lie and a rumor gets out of hand. I kept hoping that an adult would see past the lies of a spoiled little girl.
Berit
Reminiscent of Henry James' Bostonians, though this play is both wittier and more overtly tragic. Life sure has changed since 1934 (thank goodness!).
Nicole
Very good. Explores the power of persuasion, language, and lies. Much like The Crucible, one child takes the fate of two women (and those connected with them) in her hands by telling a lie. The lie wields such power that she can't help but continue. The themes of this book reminded me much of Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, where he talks of how an idea can spread and infect. The idea, or lie, in this book, infects beyond the characters outside of the central action (the children, their pa...more
Mimi
This is a powerful play that really confirms to me that more things change, the more things stay the same! As a result of Banned Books Weeks, I was reviewing the lists of banned/censored books/plays/poems and Lillian Helman's "The Children's Hour" caught my attention. The original play was written in 1934 and subsequently banned in Boston, Chicago and London for "hints of homosexuality." It's the story of how two women, best friends since childhood, have established a lovely and successful board...more
Tony
THE CHILDREN’S HOUR. (1934). Lillian Hellman. ****.
Hellman (1905-1984) burst on to the Broadway scene with this, her first play. It was extremely popular, running for over two years. The draw was in its taboo subject: lesbianism. Most of the action occurs in the Wright-Dobie School for Girls in the small town of Lancet. It is a relatively new business run by two young women who have been working hard to make it a success. They are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel after years of scr...more
Denise
I have long been a fan of the movie The Children's Hour, starring Audrey Hepburn and Shirley Maclaine, and someone had given me a copy of the play by Lillian Hellman some time ago, so when a page-to-screen challenge came up in one of my groups, I decided to read it, buy the movie, and watch it. Despite the innocent-sounding title, this is a very adult story, involving the destruction of several characters' lives by an untrue story told by a malicious little girl. Karen and Martha have establishe...more
Dani Peloquin
The Children's Hour single handedly made me a Lillian Hellman fan. The story is of two women who run a boarding school for girls in the 1930s. When a rumor is spread that the headmistresses are having a lesbian affair, the school changes from being their dream to their nightmare. While the rumor is a lie, Hellman explores the impact of a lie and the ripples that it causes. No one is left unscathed in this beautifully written play. Friendships and relationships are tested when both women go to co...more
James
I've seen the film version from the thirties, "These Three" and the sixties film "The Children's Hour" and I was entertained with both. Having seen those films has led me to read this play, which I find is still quite relevant in society today. We often are told lies that prejudice our views of others, and this play shows how destructive a lie can be. It reminded me of Shanley's "Doubt" in away. Especially the scene where Father Flynn while giving mass speaks of how truly destructive gossip can...more
Maddsurgeon
This text seems to have grown on me since I saw a community theatre production a few years back. I didn't like The Little Foxes at all, as it seemed to be nothing but a bunch of nasty people doing nasty things to each other, but either I've grown to appreciate Hellman's style, or this play is more meaningful.

A little girl slanders her teachers to get out of trouble -- tells her grandmother they've been carrying on a lesbian relationship at the boarding school. The statement ruins them, and the s...more
Neil
A very unhappy schoolgirl drops hints that two of the teachers are lesbians and bullies some of her classmates into corroborating the story. One of the teachers probably is a lesbian, the other probably isn't, but that's not really the point. Livelihoods are ruined for no good reason.

The story is a bit dated, although perhaps not as much as one would like to think. The teachers probably wouldn't be fired now, but a lot of people are still bigoted and the whispers would still be damaging. And the...more
Hannah
OH. MY. GOODNESS. This play will literally make you want to reach into the pages and strangle this little girl. SO EVIL, and without any creepy I-can-make-my-head-rotate-360-degrees kind of thing. I read this in my 20th Century Women's Lit class, and the crazy thing was, other people in the class somehow thought the grandmother or someone else was to blame for what happened. AREYOUKIDDINGMEIT'SSOTHEEVILLITTLEGIRL. Read it and you'll agree with me. You must agree with me.

Part of why I like it, t...more
Annalisa
Hard to believe it's been almost 80 years since this play was written. Much has changed and, unfortunately, much is exactly the same. The portrayal of how lives can be ruined by a lie and how people are always willing to believe a shocking rumor is beautifully played out, as is the realization by one of the main characters that the lie might have a shred of truth in it.
Grant
very good, but also somewhat predictable. at the time this work was groundbreaking i'm sure because of its subject of homosexuality. it still stands up today, but with today's openess on the subject, most readers have already come across this story or something similar many times. the central subjects of the play (as i see it) "truth", "sensation" and "character" are what keep it alive today. what is truth? why are we more apt to believe a more sensational story even if those accused have a soli...more
J. Slowik
Pretty sharp, pretty brave. This "shocking" play features what must have been one of the first, frank discussions of lesbianism and homophobia in literature-- in 1936. It also features one of the youngest true villains I've ever seen, in vicious Mary Tilford. The third act feels a bit forced and melodramatic, but that's my only critique. The rest is rich, dark, bitter and quotable.
Donna
I didn't know this was only available in play. It was never a book. Hellman did get the idea from a chapter in a book by William Roughead, Bad Companions. The chapter entitled “Closed Doors”, or The Great Drumsheugh Case”, there is the story of a scandal caused by a malicious child who said that the two headmistresses at her school had “an inordinate affection” for each other.

I didn't think it would still have the impact it did in play form..it did and I loved it!
Emma
I chose to read this play after reading a couple of my friends' reviews. Those who think that children are innocent and incapable of telling lies should read this. I am not saying that all children are evil monsters, but the play does depict how even at a tender age one can show signs of being conniving and hard-hearted. After all one doesn't just wake up one day and turn bad.
Susan
Mar 31, 2014 Susan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Susan by: Introduction to Playwriting
Shelves: plays
A child lies to evade punishment, and the lie leads to catastrophic results for the main characters. These events would hopefully play out differently in current times than in the 1930s setting.
Aaliyah
The ending nearly killed me. This is our UIL One-Act Play this year, and I think it is going to be amazing.
Susan
I'd heard about this forever, but never read it. It's powerful!

The only reason I'm giving it only 4 stars is that I read it rather than watching the play. The choice to write it as a play was a good one, and it loses something in reading it rather than hearing and seeing it.
Jennifer M
I really like the concept of the book. It deals with the concequences of spreading rumors in a way that I feel is very realistic. Although the beginning of the thrid act was a little slow and I had to force myself past it I would recommend this book to others.
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