Places: The Little Foxes

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1939

First produced: 1939

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Social realism

Time of work: 1900

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Deep South

*Deep Little Foxes, TheSouth. Southern-most of the southern states. The South itself is an offstage and onstage presence that is at the very heart of the play. From the earliest moments in the play the South is described almost as a character, with feminine and masculine traits. Regina Hubbard embodies the graces of womanhood in the Old South as she flirts with the northern industrialist William Marshall. Ben Hubbard epitomizes those who, at the turn of the twentieth century, despoiled the South for private gain. The defining characteristics of the South shift from the pre-Civil War agricultural aristocracy that had once ruled, to the new wealth of industry and commerce. The mores and ethos of southern men and women are described as though they characterize the South itself. The audience begins to feel the presence of the South in a tangible way: It is a character in transition. From the ashes of a sentimental past the South will be transformed by a new industrialism bringing northern-style prosperity while exploiting poor white southerners and unlanded black southerners. The Hubbards will, in the end, destroy their beloved South in their drive for power, influence, and status through wealth. They will import the cotton mill along with all the social and economic misery it will cause.

BibliographyEstrin, Mark W., ed. Critical Essays on Lillian Hellman. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1989. The excellent introduction to this volume presents an overview of Hellman’s career as a dramatist. Many of the essays, including an especially interesting study by Mary Lynn Broe, deal with The Little Foxes.Falk, Doris V. Lillian Hellman. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1978. Introduction to Hellman’s overall literary career. Chapter on The Little Foxes reveals Hellman’s use of research material, creation of nine drafts, and inclusion of her own family background into several of the characters.Going, William T. Essays on Alabama Literature. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1975. Contrasts the kindly Preston family in Augustus Thomas’ sentimental comedy Alabama (1891) with Hellman’s “evil and conniving” Hubbards in what is called a “melodramatic tragedy.” Both plays have references to the industrialization of the South through the use of Northern capital.Hellman, Lillian. Conversations with Lillian Hellman. Edited by Jackson R. Bryer. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1986. A collection of interviews, arranged chronologically. The index points to more than fifty references to The Little Foxes.Hellman, Lillian. Three. Boston: Little, Brown, 1979. Contains Hellman’s well-known autobiographical works An Unfinished Woman, Pentimento, and Scoundrel Time. In the chapter in Pentimento entitled “Theatre,” she discusses reflections of her own family in The Little Foxes. Also includes vivid but admittedly one-sided descriptions of Hellman’s offstage feud with Tallulah Bankhead, who played Regina.Lederer, Katherine. Lillian Hellman. Boston: Twayne, 1979. Solid survey of Hellman, the writer and the individual. Attempts to correct misinterpretations of Hellman’s Southern background and political philosophy. Analysis of The Little Foxes is thoughtful.Moody, Richard. Lillian Hellman: Playwright. New York: Pegasus, 1972. First important book-length examination of Hellman’s work. Readable, by important American theater scholar. Long chapter on The Little Foxes scrutinizes play itself as well as circumstances surrounding first Broadway production.Rollyson, Carl. Lillian Hellman: Her Legend and Her Legacy. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988. Sympathetic portrayal of Hellman’s life. Features a cast of characters who played important roles in Hellman’s life Chapter on The Little Foxes examines the writing of the play and its first Broadway production. Lengthy bibliography.Wright, William. Lillian Hellman: The Image, the Woman. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986. Biographical investigation that attempts to bring disparate elements of Hellman’s life and literary work into resolution. Survey of The Little Foxes focuses on its initial New York City production and an analysis of play.
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