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Hellman, Lillian. The Little Foxes.


- portrays a Southern family in the opening of the 20th century

- manifests how family relationships can be diseased by individuals seeking power

- the ancient sense of family property, as originally felt by the siblings Oscar, Benjamin, and Regina, finally gives way to personal interests of the individual siblings

- there is no attempt to write Southern dialect, the author notes that it is to be understood that the accents are Southern

- the motto: "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines; for our vines have tender grapes."



Oscar Hubbard

- in his late forties, husband of Birdie Hubbard, father of Leo Hubbard

- brother of Benjamin and Regina

- the weakest of the family members

- compensates the lack of professional achievements by a despotic behaviour towards his wife

Birdie Hubbard

- aged forty, wife of Oscar Hubbard, mother of Leo Hubbard

- nervous and timid, completely mastered by her husband

- alcoholic, but good-hearted

- hates her son for his resembling his father, prefers Alexandra

Leo Hubbard

- aged twenty, son of Oscar and Birdie Hubbard

- unprincipled, cruel, wicked

- an image of his father

- ambitious, but not clever enough to compete with Regina or Benjamin

Regina Giddens

- aged forty, wife of Horace Giddens, mother of Alexandra Giddens (Zan)

- sister of Oscar and Benjamin

- the business woman of the family, ready to sacrifice anything to get to money and power

- hates her husband and feels indifferently towards her daughter

- Regina did not inherit any money from her father who left everything to her brothers only

Horace Giddens

- husband of Regina Giddens, father of Alexandra Giddens

- straight in character, but a prey to his wife's manipulations

- dying of heart trouble

Alexandra Giddens (Zan)

- aged seventeen, daughter of Regina and Horace Giddens

- tender, loving, helpful

- the play's hero and the hope for better future

Benjamin Hubbard (Ben)

- aged fifty-five, brother of Regina and Oscar

- the most successful family member, most self-consciously working towards business success

Addie and Cal

- black servants



"Act I"

The scene is the living room of the Giddens' home in a small town in the South. It is the spring of 1900. The family hosts an important business partner for the dinner. The guest, Marshall, observes the unique position of Southerners in America.

The Southern aristocrats have kept together in a remarkable way. From the family however only Birdie is aristocratic. Birdie inherited from her father the best plantation in the country. Oscar married her for the plantation only.

After Marshall's leave, the family members plan what they will do if the contract with him is a success. Regina plots how to have her husband's third in the company firmly settled and how to get even a bigger share than that. She wants to get 40%, coming from Oscar's share, Oscar's compensation would be a marriage of his son to her daughter.

Alexandra is sent off to fetch Horace from Baltimore to have him sign the contracts. Horace has been away for several months and shows no intention to return. Birdie warns Alexandra, whom she loves more than her own son, against Regina's plot to marry her to Leo. Alexandra does not need the warning, she has no intention to marry the wicked youth anyway.

"Act II"

A week later. Oscar encourages his son to make a better impression on Alexandra so that she would consent to marrying him. Leo reveals to his father that Horace has 88,000 dollars in Pacific bonds in his safe deposit box. Horace checks the box only twice a year. Oscar does not mind his son's stealing they key from the safe box and exercises a demagogic reasoning to defend the "borrowing" of the bonds.

Horace refuses Regina's plan for investing his money, not willing to take part on the wrecking of the town and living on it as the other Hubbards do. Oscar hopes that Regina will persuade Horace as she always did but she does not manage. Leo is ordered to bring the bonds from Horace's deposit box.

"Act III"

Two weeks later. Horace invites his attorney-at-law to settle his last will. He wants Addie, the black woman-servant, to inherit his money and to care for his daughter so that she should be able to get away from the family's unhealthy influence.

Addie comes up with a parable: there are people who eat the earth and eat all the people on it like the locusts in the Bible. And then there are people who stand around and watch them do it, which is not right either.

Horace finds out about the stolen bonds. There is an argument with Regina. Horace gets worse and when he reaches for his medicine, he drops the bottle and its contents spill. Regina watches him crawling upstairs for another bottle but does not help him. Horace gets another heart attack and dies.

Regina blackmails her brothers. She will announce the theft of the bonds, if she will not have her share raised to 75%. Ben answers her: "The century's turning, the world is open. Open for people like you and me. Ready for us, waiting for us. [...] There are hundreds of Hubbards sitting in rooms like this throughout the country, [...] and they will own this country some day."

Regina wants to leave for Chicago, but Alexandra refuses to follow her. She uses Addie's biblical parable and concludes: "Are you afraid, Mama?" Regina does not answer. Addie comes to Alexandra and presses her arm.


  • Author

    Hellman, Lillian. (1905 - 1984).
  • Full Title

    The Little Foxes.
  • First Published

    NY: Random House, 1939.
  • Form


Works Cited

Hellman, Lillian. The Little Foxes. (1939). In: Six Plays by Lillian Hellman. NY: Vintage, 1979.


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