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Lillian Hellman's cynical play of family greed and revenge, The Little Foxes, is her most popular piece of drama. The title comes from chapter 2, verse 5, in the Song of Solomon in the King James version of the Bible, which reads, "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes." The play was acclaimed an instant hit after a hugely successful opening night in 1939 and even then, as now, drama and literary critics disagree over whether the story of the Hubbard family succeeds more as a morality play or as a satire. The Hubbard siblings steal and plot against each other in their efforts to invest in one of the first cotton mills to industrialize the New South, a plan that stands to win them millions of dollars. The Hubbards are a family prone to deceit, caught in a cycle of revenge not unlike Greek classical tragedies. The family forbearers harvested their merchant profits by overcharging newly freed slaves, and now the present Hubbards will create a larger dynasty on the toil of poor workers, who will flock to the cotton mill for paltry wages. The play voices Marxist disapproval of the Hubbard form of predatory capitalism that Hellman felt threatened the American ethic.

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