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Characters / The Children's Hour

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Karen Wright

  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: In the play Karen has a stoic reaction to Martha's suicide but in the 1961 film she's in tears.
  • Ambiguously Bi: She's very close to Martha, to the point where characters have their suspicions, but it's never explicitly stated if she ever loved Martha in a romantic way.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In These Three she is reunited with Joe in the end after he leaves her for believing that he's cheating with Martha.
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  • Mistaken for Cheating: Due to Mary, people begin to believe that she's sleeping with her best friend behind her fiance's back.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Mary spreads rumors that she and Martha are lovers.
  • Official Couple: With Joe, until he breaks up with her because he believes she's cheating on him with Martha (Or, in These Three, because she believes he's cheating on her with Martha). In These Three they end up together in the end but other versions end on No Romantic Resolution.
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: She's very close to her best friend Martha.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: She's the girly girl to Martha's tomboy. Lampshaded in the 1961 adaptation when Martha says that she's fine with plain clothes but Karen likes to be dressed up.
  • Two-Teacher School: Karen and Martha are the only two teachers at the all-girls boarding school they own.

Martha Dobie

  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Inverted in These Three. She doesn't suffer from nearly as much stress and trauma in the 1939 film as she does in the play. This largely due to, despite being a huge scandal, being Mistaken for Cheating with a man wasn't as scorned as being mistaken for cheating with a woman.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Is normally a brunette but is played the blonde Miriam Hopkins in These Three.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: Due to The Hays Code she was changed from lesbian to straight in These Three.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: She has feelings for her best friend Karen in the play and most adaptations, for Joe in These Three.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love:
    • She delivers a screaming, sobbing confession to Karen in the final act after Joe leaves her.
    • Subverted in These Three. Her confession of love to Joe is very quiet and lowkey.
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  • Boyish Short Hair: In most adaptations and revivals she has her hair cut in a bob.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Martha rants out her aunt after she comes back despite avoiding the court hearing,which led to Martha and Karen losing the suit.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: In the play she shoots herself but in the 1961 film she hangs herself.
  • Driven to Suicide: She hangs herself (shoots herself in the play) after confessing to Karen near the end.
  • Forced Out of the Closet: Accidentally done by Mary. She was lying, but her accusations of Martha being in love with Karen were actually true. This turns out terribly because Martha wasn't remotely ready to come out.
  • Gayngst: Martha suffers from a lot of repression and angst, not helped by the fact she felt that her feelings ruined her and Karen's lives.
  • Gayngst-Induced Suicide: Martha kills herself near the end soon after confessing to Karen. In her case, it was due to the troubles over her sexuality combined with everything that had occurred to her.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: She acts quite snappy towards Joe because he's Karen's lover.
  • Hot-Blooded: She has quite a temper when she gets riled up.
  • Incompatible Orientation: With Karen.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy:
    • She wanted to have this viewpoint towards Karen but ended up breaking down. She couldn't keep quiet and let them be together. When Joe left Karen that was her last straw before committing suicide.
    • In These Three she confesses her feelings to Joe to Karen and persuades her to go get him back.
  • Love at First Sight: Implied with Karen. She remembers meeting her at college and thinking she was pretty from the moment she saw her.
  • Mistaken for Cheating:
    • Due to Mary's lies, everyone believes that she and Karen are together. It's mistaken that Karen's feelings for Martha are why she won't marry her fiance.
    • In These Three, due to censorship, it was changed to Mary saying that Martha was with Joe.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Her aunt thinks she's "unnaturally" into her female friends. Mary overhears this and begins spreading rumors that Karen and Martha are lovers. It turns out she really was gay.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: These Three ends with her confessing to Karen that she loves Joe, not her killing herself.
  • Stepford Smiler: Even early on she kept a facade of happiness despite being stressed over Karen loving Joe, not her. It gets worse as the story goes on. In the end she's dropped all of her facade, though she tries to bring it back up a little right before she committed suicide.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: She's the tomboy to Karen's girly girl. Lampshaded in the 1961 film when she says that she's a "skirt and blouse" person while Karen likes dressing up.
  • Tomboyish Voice: Some actresses, such as in These Three and the BBC radio version, portray Martha with a deeper voice than Karen.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: She does most of the housework around the school despite being the more tomboyish of the two teachers.
  • Two-Teacher School: Karen and Martha own an all-girls boarding school. They're literally the only two teachers around.

Mary Tilford

  • Disappeared Dad: Her father committed suicide.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off: She gets spanked a few times but it doesn't improve her behavior. If anything, it makes her whine more.
  • Drama Queen: She makes a lot of commotion out of nothing. At one point she pretends to be sick and faints just to get out of a scolding. She's also prone to crying when things don't go her way.
  • Enfant Terrible: She lies constantly, slaps her classmate Rosalie, and blackmails her.
  • From the Mouths of Babes: It's implied she doesn't quite understand the implications much, but it's made clear enough that Mary said she heard Martha and Karen being intimate.
  • Ironic Name: She's a spoiled, drama queen named "Mary".
  • Karma Houdini: While her lies are uncovered, she never gets any real punishments for what she did. The most that occured was her being spanked by the maid in These Three and getting glared at in the other versions.
  • Malicious Slander: She spreads rumors that Martha and Karen are having an affair in order to get out of going to school.
  • Missing Mom: Her mother's whereabouts are never mentioned.
  • Parental Abandonment: Her parents are never referenced in the films. In the play her father is dead but her mother is never mentioned.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Her parents whereabouts are unknown in the films, though it is mentioned her father is deceased in the play. Her grandmother seems to be her primary caretaker.
  • A Saint Named Mary: Subverted. Mary is a brat.
  • Spoiled Brat: She's a spoiled rich kid who always wants things her way.
  • Youthful Freckles: In the 1961 adaptation her actress is freckled.

Lily Mortar

  • Drama Queen: She's an overdramatic theatre actress.
  • Nephewism: She raised Martha from a young age.
  • Parting Words Regret: In the play, she regrets fighting with Martha before her suicide.
  • Two-Teacher School: She was briefly the music teacher at Wright-Dobie School For Girls, making her the third teacher at the school, but was fired.

Amelia Tilford

  • Heteronormative Crusader: She removes her granddaughter from her school after hearing that her teachers are having a lesbian affair. She then gets every other parent to do the same.
  • Parental Favoritism: Mary mentions that Amelia favorited her father. This might have to do with why Amelia babys Mary so much.
  • Rich Bitch: She's an unpleasant, wealthy older woman.
  • Think of the Children!: This is her reason for making such a big deal out of what Mary said. She doesn't think it's appropriate for Karen and Martha to be teachers.

Joseph Cartin

Rosalie Wells

  • Blackmail: Mary blackmails her by saying that she'll tell everyone that she stole another girls necklace.
  • Extreme Doormat: She goes along with what Mary says due to being afraid that her kleptomania will be revealed.
  • Shrinking Violet
  • Sticky Fingers: In the end it turns out that the bracelet wasn't the only thing Rosalie "borrowed"...

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