Lillian Hellman Essay Research Paper Hellman

Lillian Hellman Essay, Research Paper

Hellman’s Character Models

Lillian Hellman was born on June 20, 1905 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her father was of German Jewish ancestry (Brody 1). Hellman grew up in many different regions of the United States. Since Hellman moved around a lot as a child, she had a “fragmented” education (Brody 1). She attended New York and Columbia University; where she failed to graduate from either Universities. She met Arthur Kober and soon they were married in 1925. In 1929, they traveled to “Germany where she witnessed the anti-Semitism of the embryonic Nazi movement” (Brody 1). This event left a lasting impression on her. In 1930, she met Dashiell Hammett, and soon divorced her husband (Brody). Lillian Hellman had a difficult relationship with Dashiell Hammett, a communist, which parallels with the types of relationships her characters deal with in “Watch on the Rhine.”

Lillian Hellman met Dashiell Hammett in 1930 and developed a lifelong and tumultuous relationship with him. “Hellman never married Hammett [which] marked her as an extraordinarily independent woman” (Hae*censored*e). Hammett was “a mystery novelist and film writer” (Brody), and the author of “The Maltese Falcon” (Mitgang). After 1934, Hammett contributed most of his time to the radical “left- wing political activities and to the defense of civil liberties” (Britannica). Hammett’s extremist views caused his relationship with Lillian Hellman to be strenuous. Hellman and Hammett became, however embroiled in the fight against fascism in Europe (Google). During this fight, the FBI became interested in both Hammett and Hellman’s involvement in the Communist Party. In 1951, Hammett was “convicted of contempt of congress” (King), “because he refused to reveal the names of the contributors to the bail bond of which he was a trustee” (Britannica). Hammett was sentenced to six months in prison (King). With the FBI following the couple, it put a lot of pressure and strain on them. Lillian Hellman’s relationship with Dashiell Hammett influenced many of her works. In particular “Watch on the Rhine” was mainly influenced by her relationship with Hammett and her experience in Germany.

“Watch on the Rhine” was produced in 1941 and deals with the anti-nazi movement in Germany. Lillian Hellman’s trip to Germany in 1929 was said to have been “perhaps the seed for “Watch on the Rhine” (Mac Nicholas). Sara, a character in “Watch on the Rhine,” married Kurt Mueller who was active in the anti-nazi movement in Germany in the early 1930’s. Their relationship resembles Hellman’s and Hammett’s relationship. Sara and Kurt have three children and must travel a lot because of Kurt’s affiliations. Even though Sara’s life with Kurt is somewhat tough she “stands by her husband and his political beliefs”(Hellman overview). This relates to Lillian Hellman’s life with Dashiell Hammett. Hellman stood by him, enduring hardships. In “Watch on the Rhine” Sara states, “It doesn’t pay well to fight for what we believe in. But I wanted it the way Kurt wanted it” (Hellman Watch 253). This proves that Sara will stand by her man no matter what. Lillian Hellman also stayed with Hammett despite his drinking problem and his jail time. Hellman believed that her relationship with Hammett would be alright despite their problems. Sara also believes that everything will be fine with Kurt. She states

Don’t be scared, darling. You’ll get back you’ll see. You’ve done it before- you’ll do it again. Don’t be scared you’ll get Max out alright. That’s fine you’ll do a good job, the way you’ve always done (Hellman Watch 280).

Both Sara and Hellman believe that no matter what their companions do everything will be fine.

Both Hellman and Sara stand behind their partners 100 percent, while their partners seem to try to push the boundaries of their relationships as far as they can go. Therefore Hellman has almost exactly modeled her character Sara after herself and the character Kurt is modeled after Hammett.


Work Cited

Brody, Seymour. “Lillian Florence Hellman.” Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America:150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism. Florida: Lifetime Book Inc. 1996.

“Hammett, Dashiell.” Google.18 Apr. 2001 ListBot. .

“Hammett, (Samuel) Dashiell.” Britannica Online. 1999. Encyclopedia Britannica. 18 Apr. 2001 .

Haedicke, Janet V. “Lillian Hellman: Overview.” Feminist Writers. Ed. Pamela Kester- Shelton. Detroit: Gale Research, 1996. 1.

Hellman, Lillian. “Overview: Watch on the Rhine, by Lillian Hellman.” Detroit: Gale Research, 1999.

King, David J. “Dashiell Hammett.” Crime Fiction. 18 Apr. 2001 .

Mac Nicholas, Carol. “Lillian Hellman.” Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol. 7. Ed. Donald J. Grainer. Detroit: Gale Research, 1980. 277.

Mitgang, Herbert. “Dangerous dossiers: exposing the secret war against America’s greatest authors.” Lillian Hellman’s FBI file. 1988. 10 Apr. 2001 .


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