The Children's Hour by Lillian Hellman is a cautionary play of how small lies can lead people into ruin and self-destruction. The central issue of homosexuality driven by deceit is the cause of turmoil on the lives of the people of Lancet. A whispered lie of a homosexual relationship between two owners of a boarding school spread by a troublemaking and spoiled student, Mary Tilford, leads to the turmoil that weaves its way throughout the community. When confronted with the rumors, neither woman expresses disgust at the thought, simply disappointment with the accuser. Karen Wright and Martha Dobie stand above the fray, becoming support for one another as their lives crumble around them. The issue of homosexuality is still relevant to society today where people are constantly experiencing prejudice as a cause of their choice of lifestyle. Deceit is the cause of the community's betrayal on the two innocent school headmistresses.
[...] In the news and on TV, teachers are always being blacklisted as homosexuals, thus ruining their career in the academic field. Not every case presented in the media is necessarily true. There has been many occurrences where a student has felt threatened by a teacher and uses the worst kind of slander against him or her to make themselves look better, drawing attention off their own bad behavior. Homosexuality is revealed often in the play but never by one's choice. [...]
[...] The boy continuously giggles and stares at the women, with a knowing smirk, showing how the community has come to view the two women. It is at this point that Karen sees the utter helplessness of her situation: “Karen: Oh. Martha, why did it happen? What happened? What are we doing here like (Page 1404) The feelings of hopelessness and abandonment are encompassed by Karen so completely that one cannot help but feel pity for her situation in life. This ultimately leads to the revelation that Martha has always loved Karen unnaturally. [...]
[...] When Mary is tardy for class and is carrying a bunch of wilted flowers that are supposedly for her teacher Mrs. Lily Mortar, who is also Martha Dobie's aunt, Karen easily assesses that Mary has blatantly lied to her teacher for her own pleasure of skipping class: I'm not lying, I went out walking and saw the flowers and they looked pretty and I didn't know it was so late. Karen: Stop it Mary! I'm not interested in hearing that foolish story again. [...]
[...] The homosexual issue is finally out in the open and is about to explode within the lives of Karen and Martha. Had the lie been about any other type of problem, Mrs. Tilford would have dismissed what her granddaughter said, but the issue of homosexuality is so unspoken of in the 1930s that she cannot contain herself from spreading a malicious lie. After seeing how carelessly Mary lies in other situations, it is not surprising that she would also lie about Karen and Martha's relationship without ever thinking of the consequences. [...]
[...] Celebrities and political figures have acknowledged their own homosexuality and along with the AIDS crisis, people are beginning to become more aware of the gay movement. Though many steps are being taken to prevent prejudice against gays in America, many have still not changed their views shared by their judgmental ancestors. Many people have the same fears that people of the thirties did when it comes to children being around the homosexual lifestyle. Many people would not be able to recognize a homosexual by just picking them out of a crowd, but once the person is named, they will never be able to maintain the same relationships within the community they maintained previously to “coming out of the closet.” The characters of Martha and Karen were falsely identified as having a lesbian affair, and one can see the effect it had on the community and their lives. [...]
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