Mary or Rosemary’s Baby?

November 15th, 2011

Call me crazy, but I absolutely adore the character of Mary in “The Children’s Hour”. She is absolutely diabolical, scary, demonic, manipulative, and cruel but hey, she gets sh*t done. Hellman creates a child character that is so much like the child in the film Orphan or The Omen. Mary’s character is so purely evil she almost seems possessed. However, Hellman makes Mary completely believable. Never once does the reader stop to question the believability of Mary because Hellman manages to keep her devilish ways somewhat innocent and childlike. Mary’s outbursts of physical destruction and harm are horrifying but still read as childish and immature. The reader sees Mary for what she is– a spoiled child acting out because she cannot get what she wants. This seems to be Mary’s one redeeming characteristic—her childishness. Even though Mary is literally and figuratively a murderer, one cannot hold her completely responsible for all the chaos in the play (even though she is). The circulation of the lesbian rumor and the public fallout Karen and Martha suffer because of it is, in the end, completely blamed on Mrs. Tilford. It is she that seems to be the scapegoat for the circulation of this (at the time) “terrible” accusation. However, can one really blame Mrs. Tilford for the downfall of Karen and Martha? Probably not. One cannot blame an adult for doing what he/she thinks is best for his/her child, no matter who it effects. If I knew an illicit love affair was happening a few feet from my childs bedroom, lesbian, gay, heterosexual, or otherwise, I am getting involved. One does not assume, especially in the time frame of this play, for a child of 8 or 9 to know about lesbianism and “lovemaking”. It is Mary’s delivery that makes it clear because even she is unsure of what kind of noises are made in the schoolmistress’s bedroom. It is also not uncommon for parents to explicitly take their child’s word over that of another adult or authority figure. Parents also do not want to think that their child is capable of lying so blatantly, ferociously, and heartlessly; it would mean that his/her child is not “perfect”. In order to prevent having to face this admission of fault in a child, the only option a parent has is to become an advocate for his/her child. That is precisely what Mrs. Tilford did. She took action not necessarily against Martha and Karen but advocated for Mary. One can even say that because Karen and Martha decided to take the slander suit in “public” by taking it to course, the outcome of events can be rightly blamed on them. There could have been another way to prove their innocence privately with Mrs. Mortar, Karen, Mrs. Tilford, and Martha. So, in the end, Mary’s name should be cleared from almost all blame from this unfortunate situation. Is Mary a disturbed child, most likely. Did she plant the seeds of destruction? Absolutely. Could she have possibly known just how far her lie would take her? No. Her lie was “watered” or nurtured by Mrs. Tilford and the other characters that believed Mary’s initial lie. It was really intriguing, interesting, and awesome to see the characteristics of Iago, Roger Chillingworth, and the abortionist from Summer embodied by this little girl.

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