The Little Foxes By Lillian Hellman

Little FoxesThe Little Foxes
by Lillian Hellman
Dramatists Play Service, Inc. 1947
ISBN: 978-0822206774
72 p.p.

Set in the deep south around the 1900’s, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes, focuses on three siblings working together to amass a fortune. For the most part, the play focuses on the con put on by Regina, Oscar, and Ben, though within their dialogue, abuse and malice are highlighted in the text. In other words, it seems as if Hellman uses the pretext of the con so as to shed light on the intricate workings on abusive and un-healthy relationships.

Take for example the relationship of Birdie and Oscar Hubbard. The verbal abuse from Oscar to Birdie connotes the idea of Birdie’s entrapment in the marriage. In the beginning of the first act, Hellman sets up the abusive relationship through dialogue. By the end of the act, verbal abuse transforms into physical abuse. While Oscar and his siblings are arranging marriages amongst their children, Birdie assures Alexandra (Regina’s daughter) that she will not force her to marry her son. Oscar then strikes his wife for disrupting the business transaction (how Oscar and his siblings treat most everything in their lives).

Oscar’s abuse of Birdie serves as a parallel for the abuse to come between Regina and her husband Horace. Horace, as a well-established banker, is a central character to the plot as the three siblings depend on an investment from Horace to succeed. Horace quickly becomes aware of the scheme and cuts Regina from his will to favor his daughter. This, of course, upsets Regina who quickly wishes him dead, only to cause Horace a heart attack. The most astounding aspect of this scene is how even though a member of their family is dying, the three siblings have different plans of action, depending on whether or not Horace survives the heart attack or not.

The idea of business and greed and the disregard of familial bonds is an interesting theme Hellman illustrates. For one, it is easy to read the characters of the play as lacking humanity—and in some cases, they do. Although in their dialogue, the most human concepts are complicated. Take for example Regina, who at one point in the play says, “There are people who can’t go back, who must finish what they start. I am one of those people, Oscar.” Does the cold and calculating demeanor of Regina suggest that one wrong doing will lead to more? It seems as if Regina and her siblings seem bound by their cold and business-oriented personalities.

Overall, Little Foxes is an interesting and layered read. In one play, Hellman manages to shed light on different aspects into the lives of the characters. There are intricate relationships that deconstruct the wholesome ideas of perfect society. Hellman focuses on greed as a theme of the play in order to highlight different types of abuse that can exist within a family. The fact that Hellman shed light on these issues at all are extremely important, especially since she lived in a time when these issues were not really discussed.


Lillian HellmanLillian Hellman was born in Louisiana in 1905 and died June 30 1984. She attended Columbia University and New York University while being exposed to different cultures. Throughout her career, she wrote plays to promote political activism and social justice, especially with works such as “The Children’s Hour” and “Watch The Rhine.”


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