Example #1 – Little Trifles Add Up to a Big Case
Detectives are always looking for little pieces of evidence when investigating a crime. After all, it is this evidence that can turn a trial around, whether be it for the good or bad. This is especially the case in Susan Glaspell’s Trifles. When Mrs. Hale comes across little pieces of evidence, she passes them off as being “trifles”, hiding them from the detective. She is the sole reason that very little evidence is collected that would convict Mrs. Wright and can be believed to have some sort of involvement in the murder of John Wright.
Mrs. Hale, being estranged from Mrs. Wright for over a year, had something to prove when she went into the house that day. Whether it is out of guilt from not seeing Mrs. Wright, or because she was actually an accomplice in helping Mrs. Wright get away with the act, we’ll never know. However, Mrs. Hale knew what she was doing when she started to dismiss evidence before the detective’s eyes had seen it. She was also very committed to showing that Mrs. Wright wasn’t a bad homemaker, dismissing most of that evidence also.
Mrs. Hale first shows signs of her guilt when she defends some bad housekeeping evidence, blaming it on things that men do. When attention is brought to a dirty towel, Mrs. Hale dismisses it because ” Men’s hands aren’t always as clean as they might be”(1121). Her actions are then seen as loyalty to her own sex and are never seen as loyalty to Mrs. Wright only. The group sees her as having sympathy for a fellow homemaker, which is exactly what she wants them to think. Chronologically, the next piece of evidence introduced is a quilt. Mrs. Wright had been stitching it, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary, except for one square that had some awful stitching in it. Mrs. Hale then decides to ” . . . finish up this end ” just to keep things nice and tidy for Mrs. Wright (1125).
Prices start at $12
Prices start at $11
Prices start at $12
How convenient, don’t you think? Evidence that would show Mrs. Wright as not being extremely stable is just erased for neatness purposes. Next, Mrs. Peters finds a birdcage, and shortly after, Mrs. Hale finds the bird. There are many peculiar things about both of these items. First, the cage has a damaged door, which shows signs of forced entry. Now, Mrs. Wright is said to have loved the bird, and actually was heard to sing to herself more, after she bought the bird. So that leaves only John Wright to be the one who broke the cage. And, after the bird is found, we know why the cage was damaged. The bird, dead in the sewing box, is found strangled to death. Exactly the way that Mr. Wright died in his sleep. This is the single most important piece of evidence, yet both ladies decide to hide it from the detective.
You may begin to think, “Why doesn’t Mrs. Peters do something, or say something to stop Mrs. Hale?” Well, the answer is that Mrs. Hale convinces her that Mrs. Wright is a simple homemaker just like both of them, and due to that, they both need to defend her, no matter what evidence may point to. This culminates to one quick part where Mrs. Peters says,” The law has got to punish crime, Mrs. Hale”. And Mrs. Hale continues on, showing Mrs. Peters that Mrs. Wright is a good human being (1127). And the final deception comes at the very end when Mrs. Peters deceives her husband and shows loyalty to Mrs. Hale, and Mrs. Wright. When asked if she is married to the law, Mrs. Peters says “Not – just in that way.”(1128).
This brings us to the final topic, what was Mrs. Hale’s motive? Well, the reader can see her motive in two different ways. One motive is that she used to be friends with Mrs. Wright, but has stopped talking to her because the Wright house isn’t “cheerful”. Mrs. Hale feels guilty about losing her friend, and now that Mrs. Wright has no one, she wants to show her loyalty to her old friend. She does this by making sure that no evidence can be found to show that Mrs. Wright actually killed her husband. And the other motive is one of self-defense. Mrs. Wright, being an old friend, has been struggling in her relationship. The loud fights could be considered as having some physical aspects to them, and Mrs. Hale does not like that.
So, secretly, they could have gotten together and planned out this whole murder. Whether it was Mrs. Hale only covering up what Mrs. Hale did, or whether Mrs. Hale actually killed Mr. Wright for her, we will never know. So the play of friendly deception and murder ends with a feeling of doubt. The audience does not know what really happened, or even what is going to happen. We are left to think our own thoughts and figure out what was really going on. Whether or not Mrs. Hale killed John Wright for Mrs. Wright, we will never know. But the fact remains that Mrs. Hale severely deceives everyone in the play, but she is seen as a harmless homemaker, which is precisely why her plan works.
In Trifles, Susan Glaspell debates the roles between men and women during a period where a debate was not widely conducted. Glaspell wrote Trifles in the early 1900s—a time when feminism was just getting started. In this play, Glaspell shows us her perspective on the roles of men and women and how she believes the situation would play out. Trifles seem like another murder mystery on the surface, but the play has a much more profound meaning behind it.
Glaspell presents the idea that men and women analyze situations differently, and how these situations are resolved based on how we interpret them. Research shows that women’s brains “may be optimized for combining analytical and intuitive thinking.” On the other hand, male brains are predominately “optimized for motor skills and actions” (Lewis). In the play, this research shows true when the women, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, analyze details rather than looking at the apparent, physical evidence, and they find out the motive of the murder.
The men, on the other hand, look at broader evidence that does not lead to any substantial conclusion. When Glaspell was writing this play, she wanted the women to be the real instigators, the ones that would end up solving the mystery. While the men in the story laugh at the ‘trifles’ that women worry about, these details mean a great deal in Glaspell’s eyes. Glaspell presents the idea of what men and women are different in the way they live their lives through detail.
Susan Glaspell’s Trifles is a little gem of a play. In one short act, the playwright presents the audience with a complex human drama leaving us with a haunting question. Did an abused Nebraska farm wife murder her husband? Through the clever use of clues and the incriminating dialogue of the two main characters, this murder mystery unfolds into a psychological masterpiece of enormous proportions. Written in 1916, the play deals with the theme of the roles of women in society. This was a time before women had the right to vote or sit on juries. Shortly after writing the play, Glaspell wrote it as a short story entitled A Jury of Her Peers.
The scene is set in the cold, gloomy kitchen of a Nebraska farmhouse. The room is quite messy with signs of uncompleted work everywhere; unwashed pots, a dirty hand towel, and bread left open on the table. The first characters to enter the stage are two middle-aged men, the county sheriff, Henry Peters, and Lewis Hale, a local farmer. They are followed by a younger man, George Henderson, the county attorney. Then, the main characters arrive on stage, the sheriff’s wife, and the farmer’s wife, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale. The men have arrived to investigate the murder of the owner of the house, John Wright.
The women have come to gather some clothes and personal belongings for Minnie (Foster) Wright, who now is in the county jail on charges that she killed her husband. The men are all caught up in the so-called “important” investigation of the case, belittling the women’s concerns as being mere “trifles”, when actually, the women are the ones uncovering the clues which could solve the case and reveal the murderer. The “trifles” uncovered by the two women are intriguing, to say the least. They tell the audience a great deal about the home life and mental state of Mrs. Wright. The house didn’t have a telephone because when Mr. Hale asked if Mr. Wright would want to join him in paying for a party line, Wright’s reply was “folks talk too much anyway and all he wanted was peace and quiet.” When Mr. Hale found Mrs. Wright, she was sitting in her rocking chair “looking queer, as if she didn’t know what she was going to do next.”
Hale then went upstairs and discovered Wright’s body lying in bed, a rope tied around his neck. Wright had been strangled. The pieces of evidence found in the kitchen by the women paint a picture of a desperate woman who had suffered mental and perhaps physical abuse at the hands of her cruel husband for 30 years. Jars of cherries that Mrs. Wright had preserved were found broken and the women assume it is because of the cold. A roller towel was found dirty, dirty pots under the sink, and a loaf of bread on the table was left to go stale. Mrs. Hale doesn’t think Minnie Wright did it because Minnie is still concerned about the household things. She wondered how a person could be strangled without waking up or weakening someone in bed with him.
The women find a quilt that Mrs. Wright had been working on and the last stitches are uneven and Mrs. Hale pulls them out. Mrs. Peters finds a birdcage with a broken door hinge that looked as if someone had been rough with it. They find the dead bird wrapped up in silk in a box in Mrs. Wright’s sewing basket, it’s neck broken. The climax of the play is when the men return and Mrs. Hale hides the bird in her coat pocket and Mrs. Peters keeps the secret. The protagonist of the play is probably Mrs. Hale. She knew Minnie Foster Wright as a happy, beautiful, talented young girl before the years of toil and abuse by John Wright had turned her into a sad, lonely and perhaps, battered woman. Mrs.
Hale was sympathetic because she also was a farm wife but at least, she had her children to keep her company. Mrs. Hale felt guilty that she hadn’t taken the time to visit Minnie Wright but she excused herself saying that there was so much work to do on the farm and the Wright place never looked cheerful. The play was filled with symbols, especially the broken cage and the dead bird, which could have represented Minnie Wright herself, a woman whose zest for life had been squeezed out of her by her tyrant of a husband. There was suspense as the women hide the evidence, perhaps saving Mrs. Wright’s life. This leads to a moral dilemma. Did the women have the right to conceal the evidence? Were they doing it only for Minnie Wright or for all women who could never have a jury of their peers?
In Susan Glaspell’s play Trifles (1163), she tells a story of mystery and intrigue, surrounding an apparent murder. The setting is in the early twentieth century and it appears to be cold, maybe late fall or the dead of winter. Either way, the mood is chilling; cold like the death that has set the tone of the play. Although death or murder had taken place, Glaspell was not trying to make it the main theme. The main point she was leading to was the plight that so many women faced during this time in history. Glaspell illustrates how in the early twentieth century women were second class and some time was treated as such even by the men they were married to.
Women in the early to mid-twentieth century were mainly relegated to the house. The upkeep of the house and maintenance of their husbands were for the most part their only job. Their job was thankless and that sometimes-bordered on slavery. Mrs. Wright was lively and happy before her marriage. The two female characters in the play even talk about the beauty of her voice before marriage, and how she used to sing in the church choir. Over the years her husband Mr. Wright seemed to break her down and transformed her into somebody to meet his own needs. The only thing that seemed to make her happy was a bird, a sweet singing canary that may have turned out to be a breaking point in Mrs. Wright.
When Mrs. Wright found the bird dead, she snapped and killed her husband. Mrs. Wright found a way to free herself from the prison that Mr. Wright had kept her in, through murder she escaped. Mrs. Wright was not the only one Glaspell was trying to make a point for the suffrage that women endured in the early twentieth century. She cleverly makes her point through the other two female characters in the play, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale. At the beginning of the play the men make comments on the cleanliness of the house, Court Attorney: “not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies” (1166, 31). This statement demonstrates the sentiment that men had for women, whose responsibility for the upkeep of the house was the women’s.
The ladies are quick to come back, Mrs. Hale: There’s a great deal of work to be done on a farm.”(1166, 32). “Stiffly”(1166) was used to describe the mood the actress needed to represent to the audience. Glaspell uses this tone to represent that these women knew how tough life could be for a woman on a farm or in any household. Mrs. Wright was driven to murder her husband by the systematic breakdown of her lively spirit that existed before she got married. By the end of the play, it is the women who concluded to what had happened in the Wright household. And it is these very women who decide not to share this information with the men.
Men who would not understand, or take into consideration the events that led up to the murder. Glaspell shares with the audience what time was like for women in the early twentieth century, a point in time that was a hard, thankless, and sometimes life-changing experience for women. At the time Glaspell wrote the play, maybe this was the only way to bring light to what was maybe going on in her own life, and in the world.
Contemporarily, people are equal regardless of their gender courtesy of the different constitutions across the world. This perception did not exist earlier, especially at the start of the 20th century and earlier centuries. In the past, society was mainly male-dominated and women were treated with little importance. For instance, the woman’s place was in the kitchen and she played the role of a good mother to her children while at the same time taking care of her husband. Literature materials published before the late 20th century mainly deal with roles based on the gender of an individual.
The 19th century was characterized by the emergence of female literary figures and writers who wrote exemplary works on inequality on both sexes while paying attention to women’s inability to be independent and their overreliance on men. Several female literal writers paved the way for other female writers in the 20th century. Susan Glaspell was one of the 20th-century writers and she came up with literal works that addressed various issues in society. One of the most outstanding literal works by Glaspell is Trifles.
In the play, Trifles, Glaspell shows a reflection of gender and sex roles bound on cultural notions with greater emphasis on women. Women were treated with lesser dignity as compared to men and to the society; they were of little or no importance, as they presumably contributed very little too important issues within the society. In her play, Trifles, Glaspell uses two parts of the play, one distinctive narrative on men and the other on women, in order to trigger the reader into evaluating the value of both genders to society. In this piece of literature, Glaspell not only demonstrates the role of women but also depicts knowledge and valuation or devaluation of perspectives on women within various contexts.
This paper aims at discussing the conveyance of the feminist perspective as depicted in Susan Glaspell’s play, Trifles. Trifles is a feminist play where feminism means the act of agitating for women’s rights by any means. Glaspell goes into detail to show how Mrs. Wright is an object of abuse to her husband and thus arouses sympathy from readers who would in turn support the feminism agenda of liberating women, which started in the late 19th Century. Mr. and Mrs. Wright, the two main characters in the play Trifles, bring out the challenges faced by women at that time. For instance, Mrs. Wright is subjected to mental suffering as a result of endless abuses from her husband, who also imposes quite a number of restrictions on her; hence, limited access to the outside world.
The play presents men as uncouth creatures who never want peace in the house. Mrs. Wright spends a considerable amount of time in the kitchen, which is a symbolic representation of marriages where most women of the time spent a significant portion of their lives. In addition, Glaspell incorporates five people in the play, two of whom are women, a symbolic representation of women as a minority. The timing of this play is not coincidental. Glaspell did not just choose to address women plight and probably suggest ways of how to overcome men’s dominance at a time when feminism was being rooted in society. Glaspell simply embraced the opportunity presented by the writing space to propagate feminism because she could reach a wider audience via writing.
Mrs. Wright’s intentions to kill her husband depict women’s oppression by men in society. The play takes place in a cold gloomy house representing the cruelty of Mr. Wright who is adamant in his pursuits and thus a nuisance to those who do not like his way of life. As the play begins, all characters enter the farmhouse, but women distance themselves from men, thus showing the rift that exists between the two sexes in society. The two women in the play are aware of their disregard in the community, a fact that strengthens the bond between them.
Through this bond, they gain power that assists them to protect Mrs. Wright who is accused of trying to murder her husband. Through staying together, as illustrated in the play, women can achieve indomitable power. However, this power comes with the assumption that women live as individuals and it is only through bonding that they can gain power, strength, and success. Through this argument, Glaspell seeks to give women tips on how to overcome chauvinism and tame men through the power of staying together.
According to the play Trifles, in a society dominated by male chauvinism, women take advantage of their lack of recognition to destroy the power of law coupled with influencing and effecting justice. Within the play, the power of women is illustrated indirectly; for instance, Glaspell uses bonding to show that women have a higher level of power than they know. In addition, once a woman gains access to knowledge, she implements the knowledge in making significant decisions in life. For instance, Mrs. Peter and Mrs.
Hanes’s research ways to relieve Mrs. Wright of her abusive marriage, rather than paying attention to the violent and abusive moments she faces in the marriage. Instead of letting their emotions and sympathy dictate their course of action, they become proactive and come up with ways of freeing their friend for once and for all. Knowledge is also one of the ways that people can achieve power. Together with their bonding, women in the play use knowledge to come up with ways that see the murder case against Mrs. Wright dropped. Women also tend to come together and form alliances since they are highly sidelined in society. Clearly, by writing this play sometimes before August 1916 (when it premiered), Glaspell was simply promoting the feminism agenda, which was launched in the Seneca Falls Convention on July 19, 1848, where western women right’s champions met for the first time ever to push for equal rights.
Trifles is a feminist play that is explored in this paper. Women live in gender discrimination in a society where males dominate and control almost all sectors of society. However, in a feministic move, Glaspell illustrates how women can come together to help one another and achieve power in unity. For instance, Mrs. Peter and Mrs. Hanes form an indomitable force through which they manage to free Mrs. Wright from the claws of life imprisonment due to murder charges. Even though the play fails to call for entitlement of equal rights to men and women openly, from a critical point of view, it is agitating for the same rights. Therefore, Glaspell simply uses the writing space to promote feminism as shown in this feministic play.
Gender roles are attitudes that a society links to each sex. They are basically prejudicial descriptions of who men and women are. In today’s society, men and women are divided into two stereotypical gender-roles; the feminine code and the masculine code. Men have been described as being insensitive, dominant, strong, rational, aggressive, and rude, whereas women have been described as sensitive, weak, emotional, talkative, passive, and more polite. In Trifles, women begin a rebellion against a male-dominated society. As the play progresses, the author tries to show that the omission of the clues found in the kitchen and the complete disregard for women serve as a consequence of solving the case. In the one-act play by Susan Glaspell, the plot, the actions of various characters, and the dialogue communicate the author’s disapproval of gender-role stereotypes.
In the play, the author uses dialogue to convey gender-role stereotypes. From the very beginning of the play, the author presents a patriarchal society through the setting. According to gender-role stereotypes, women are thought to be domestic and live in their “private sphere,” in the confinements of the house, specifically the kitchen, the place where the women in the play remain. Men are presumed to live in the “public sphere” away from the chores of the house and provide for the family as indicated by the jobs the male characters hold. Very early in the play, Mr. Hale decides to talk to Mr. Wright, before his wife, in order to see if Wright would go in with him on a party telephone.
However, Hale says, “I said to Harry that I didn’t know as what his wife wanted to make much difference to John”(Glaspell 376) as if a women’s opinion in a patriarchal society would have no effect on Wright’s choice. Later on in the play, by asking the question? Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?? (378), the County Attorney suggests that women are supposed to know about housekeeping because society comprehends women in that way. Both the County Attorney’s and Hale’s comments about women show the author’s disapproval of gender-role stereotypes. Both characters neglect women and this hampers the chance of solving the case.
The actions of various characters also contribute to conveying gender-role stereotypes. At one point in the play, when the County Attorney and the Sheriff are looking for clues, they cannot find anything. The reason for this is that they completely ignore the possibility of finding clues in the kitchen, which is a woman’s domain based on gender-role stereotypes. In their exchange of dialogue, County Attorney says, “I guess we’ll go upstairs first” and then out to the barn and around there. You’re convinced that there was nothing important here? nothing that would point to any motive? (377). Does the Sheriff reply by saying, “Nothing here but kitchen things”(377), which proves that they overlook the clues in the kitchen.
Their failure to search the kitchen reveals their belief that no clues could possibly be found in the kitchen. What they do not know is that the women are able to find clues, such as the dead bird in Mrs. Wright’s sewing box. Had the men looked in the right place, they would have found the clues that the women found. By this, one can see that Glaspell disproves gender stereotypes. She implies that if the men did not base their thoughts on obnoxious descriptions, then they too would have found clues. By the way, women are depicted in this story through the actions of various characters and the dialogue, Glaspell states that one should not judge people based on their gender. Gender is but a construct, and it is not innate. In writing this play, Glaspell changes the concept of gender-role stereotypes to show that women should be rebellious against a male-dominated society.
“Trifles,” a one-act play written by Susan Glaspell, is a cleverly written story about a murder and more importantly, it effectively describes the treatment of women during the early 1900s. In the opening scene, we learn a great deal of information about the people of the play and of their opinions. We know that there are five main characters, three men and two women. The weather outside is frighteningly cold, and yet the men enter the warm farmhouse first. The women stand together away from the men, which immediately puts the men against the women. Mrs. Hale s and Mrs. Peters s treatment from the men in the play is reflective of the beliefs of that time. These women, aware of the powerless slot that has been made for them, manage to use their power in a way that gives them an edge.
This power enables them to succeed in protecting Minnie, the accused. “Trifles” not only tells a story, but it also shows the demeaning view the men have for the women, the women s reaction to man’s prejudice, and the women s defiance of their powerless position. Throughout the play, Glaspell uses dialogue which allows us to see the demeaning view the men have for the women. Mr. Hale declares that “women are used to worrying about trifles” (958) trivializing the many tasks and details that women are responsible for. In his ignorance of how crucial their duties are in allowing a household to function smoothly, he implies their unimportance. The remark from the County Attorney about Minnie, “Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?” (958) was insensitive and unjustified.
All because his hand found the sticky residue of her exploded preserves, a soiled spot on her roll towel, and some dirty pans in the kitchen. Due to the circumstances, Minnies mess is entirely due to her dire emotional state. These statements and others made by the men as the play progresses show the men s shallow view of women s intelligence and value. The men s prejudice is blatant and although it was easy for Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters to pick up on it, they react to it in a variety of ways. Defensively, Mrs. Hale, replies rigidly to the County Attorney s remark by stating that “there s a great deal of work to be done on a farm,” (958) offering an excuse for Minnies lapse in cleaning. Later, he brushes her off when she explains that John Wright was a grim man. To the County Attorney, the women are just there to collect personal items for Minnie, they are not going to give him any valuable insight into the murder.
To their credit, the women do not force their thoughts or feelings on the men when biased statements are made in their direction. They hold back and discuss the remarks later after the men go upstairs. Mrs. Peters observes that “Mr. Henderson is awful sarcastic in a speech and he ‘ll make fun of her saying she didn’t wake up” (960). The fact that she believes the men would laugh if they heard the two women discussing the dead canary reveals how sure she is that the men think of them as concerned with the inessential. Even with this knowledge, women choose not to limit themselves to the roles that men have placed them. Instead, they choose to observe, examine, and evaluate what actually happened in the house. They understand that their discovery is best kept hidden because they knew that the men would not be able to comprehend the women s perceptions of the clues, the logic of motive, and the conclusion of justification.
The women have claimed a powerful stance from their powerless position They know that the men of their time were not prepared to relinquish or share the dominant role in society. So the women, in recognizing the value of their perceptions and decisions, step beyond the box society has put them in. They do not defy the boundaries in a personal effort to advance women; they comprehend the importance of what they have learned and put that foremost in their strategy. The protection of Minnie is imperative, and they know how they must act. They know that the environment is unfriendly to women and that just as it undervalues them, it also underestimates them. So the women decide to play their hand carefully using men s narrow view of women to the advantage of their cause.
The ladies make an unspoken decision that Mrs. Wright did not deserve to be punished for killing her husband. In their minds, evidence of his extreme cruelty to his wife negated her guilt. Even though it is clear to the men that the women could never provide help in such a major case, they are ironically the ones missing the only piece of evidence. Despite the demeaning view of the women by the men, the women s indifference to their prejudice, and the defiance of their position in society, “Trifles” shows how women can make a difference during any era.
Susan Glaspell wrote Trifles in the early 1900 s long before the modern women s movement began. Symbolism is used in the play so that the audience is able to see through the eyes of Minnie Wright and determine why she killed her husband. Character s names, the bird, and a quilt are three key symbols Glaspell uses in the play to provide the audience with insight on the never heard, or seen characters, Minnie and John Wright. Glaspell uses character s names in Trifles as one form of symbolism. For instance, Minnies name has a double significance, Minnie being mini or minimized, which was descriptive of her relationship with her husband. The taking of husband s names is also important in the story. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are not even given first names.
The role that society has cast them in is one that is defined by their husbands. Mrs. Peters, the sheriff s wife is told that she is married to the law by the county attorney on page 324. The best example of symbolism using names is the image of Minnie Foster. I hear she used to be lively when she was Minnie Foster says Mrs. Hale on page 319. The image of Minnie Foster is used to show the audience what John Wright her husband, had abused her of denying her personality and individuality. This gave insight into male dominance in the play.
Another way one is able to see through the eyes of Mrs. Wright is how Glaspell uses the bird and its cage as another form of symbolism. Mrs. Hale describes Minnie as kind of like a bird herself, real sweet and pretty, but kind of fluttery (p 322). When the women find the broken birdcage, they don t realize its importance until they find the dead bird. The bird was caged just as Minnie was trapped in the abusive relationship with John. John strangles the life out of the bird, just as he did Minnie. When John killed the bird, he also killed the last of Minnie. The broken birdcage represents Minnies’ freedom from John, and when she killed John her cage was broken as well.
The last symbolic key in Trifles was the quilt, which was symbolic of Minnie’s life. At first, she took the scraps and put them into a nice, neat quilt. However, the block that she was working on was all over the place as if she didn’t know what she was about states Mrs. Hale on page 321. When John killed the bird, he destroyed the last bit of personality that Minnie had for herself. She was angry and confused. The question that was asked about the quilt is whether Minnie will quilt it or knot it (320). By quilting the blanket, she would have chosen to endure the pain that John was putting her through, but by knotting the quilt she chose to eliminate it.
In the play Trifles by Susan Glaspell, symbolism is used to help the audience figure out why Mrs. Wright killed her husband. Glaspell uses character s names, a bird and a quilt to symbolically explain what was going on in the mind of Minnie Wright, and what led to the murder of her husband. The character s names helped the audience to understand the male domination of the whole town, especially the dominance that was in the Wright s house. The bird symbolized Minnie’s personality, and spirit, and how it was suppressed and literally murdered; and last but not least the quilt symbolized Minnie’s life, and also the choices that she made concerning her husband s murder. This was an excellent way to get the audience involved in the play, and the use of symbolism encouraged one to think about what was actually going on.
Trifles were written in the early 1900 s by Susan Glaspell. This occurred far before the women s movement. Women were generally looked upon as possessions to their husbands. Their children, all wages, and belongings were the property of their husbands. In Glaspell s story, it is easily depicted as to what role the men and women portrayed in society at this time. Glaspell proves her point by a conversation between two women in this story. The women, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale are at the scene of the murder of John Wright. The women accompanied the County Attorney, the Sheriff, and Mr. Hale to the house. Mr.
Hale describes everything that he saw the morning he discovered Mr. Wright s body. The men have come to the house looking for evidence to convict Mrs. Wright. While the men are looking at the house over for evidence, they grasp a different image than the women. The men viewed the house as inadequately taken care of due to broken jars of preserves or discovering dirty towels. All the men notice is clutter. The men do not look deeper behind the meanings of this disarray. However, women do. The women understand that the reason that things such as the towels are not clean is that she more than likely was busy doing her many other chores of the household. They also considered how much trouble Mrs.
Wright went to fix the preserves. The women’s reason that the uncaring concern John had for Minnie and the attention he paid to the house perhaps forced Minnie to resort to killing. Even the County Attorney, Sheriff, and Mr. Hale could not understand all the difficulties women go through. They criticize Mrs. Wright as well as an insult to all women. Mr. Hale says, “Well, women are used to worrying over trifles.” The actions of just these men show how women were taken for granted in this era. Inevitably, the men are unable to prove that Mrs. Wright murdered her husband but are going to convict her anyway. However, women have solved the case. They come to the conclusion that Mrs. Wright was not treated very well by her husband and was not able to withstand the mistreatment anymore.
They could tell the lack of attention he paid to his wife. The men still have a hard time accepting this concept because they do not believe that men treat women badly. The title, Trifles, as well as the examples all, represent how men view women. A “trifle” is something of little importance. This story was used not only to show how men perceived women but were also used to foreshadow that there will not be an absolute tyranny by men permanently. Women would not stand to be abused much longer.
Susan Glaspell’s play “Trifles” dates back to 1916. The play was written in a period of great strife in both social and literary fronts. Glaspell’s play is based on real-life events that she witnessed when working as a reporter. The play is based on the playwright’s observations as opposed to real-life events. “Trifles” features a scarce character pool of main characters. There are three women and three men in the play. All the characters in this play a vital role in the play’s development. Some of Glaspell’s characters in this play are flat while the others are more rounded. This essay explores the roundness or flatness of the characters in “Trifles” and their conformity to stereotypes.
The main difference between flat and round characters is that flat characters do not change as much as round characters do. Rounded characters seem more interesting because they develop in the course of the story. Round characters are also more believable because their complexity resonates with the audience. On the other hand, flat characters remain static in the course of the play. In “Trifles”, the women characters are rounded as opposed to the men characters who are flatter. Glaspell uses a unique methodology of character development in her one-act play.
The main conflict in the play is the murder of John Wright. Although the murder is not solved in the course of the play, some characters are able to develop. The men characters are obviously flat characters. Mr. Hale and the sheriff are both middle-aged men who come to Mr. Wright’s house to investigate his murder. Mr. Hale is a neighbor to the Wright family. His character does not undergo any major changes or transformations. Hale only provides information to the audience. We learn about the details of the murder from Hale. All of Hale’s statements are static from the beginning to the end.
The sheriff’s character does not provide much input to the story. The only thing we know is that the sheriff is here on official duty. Most of his dialogue is used to reveal what is happening on the stage. Both the sheriff and Mr. Hale are not interesting characters and their input to the play’s plot is negligible. The county attorney George Henderson came to Mr. Wright’s house in his capacity as an investigator. It is also probable that his job will also include prosecuting Mrs. Wright in case she is tried for her husband’s murder. He is portrayed as a young professional who looks down upon women. His initial feeling is that Mrs. Wright is guilty of the murder of her husband and she should be charged in court for it.
His conviction does not change throughout the story and his distaste for Mrs. Wright is evident. For instance, at one time he criticizes her housekeeping skills. All the men in the play conform to stereotypes in several ways. First, they are quick to dismiss any ideas that come from the women even though they are crucial to the investigation (Glaspell 1095). The men believe that women cannot be of any help to the investigation. However, in the end, it is the women who find a possible motive for the murder. Moreover, the men expect the women to obey them and that is why the attorney does not bother to check them for any concealed evidence when it is time to leave Wright’s house.
Both Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale are well-rounded characters and their character growth is evident throughout the play. Their characters’ development is verified through their feelings, emotions, and feelings. Mrs. Peters is the wife of the sheriff. She defends the men in the room by claiming that their actions are justified because they are only doing their jobs. She does not seem very opinionated and tends to believe what the men-folk says. However, she is the first to discover that the birdcage is empty. She reckons that bullies are very hurtful and they too deserve to feel the pain they inflict on others. She moves from being a follower to being Mrs. Hale’s co-conspirator. She acts against the attorney’s wishes when she colludes with Mrs. Hale and they hide the evidence.
Mrs. Hale is the most rounded character in the play. At the beginning of the play, she is standing in a corner with Mrs. Peters until the men beckon them to get closer to the stove to seek warmth. Mrs. Hale was acquainted with Mrs. Wright even before she was married. After a few recollections, she starts feeling guilty for having neglected Mrs. Wright (Glaspell 1048). She genuinely feels sorry for Mrs. Wright and jumps at the opportunity to help her by hiding the dead bird. The women in the play do not abide by any common stereotypes. For instance, the attorney assumes that Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Wright are friends just because they are neighbors. This assumption is based on the stereotype that all women are social beings. The women also defy stereotypes by keeping the information they found in Mrs. Wright’s kitchen to themselves.
A Russian writer Anton Chekhov wrote the story A Trifle from Real Life in the second part of the 19th century. The story appears in St. Petersburg were two main characters Aliosha and Nikolai Ilitch Belayeff are having a conversation about Aliosha s relationship with his father. Through this conversation, the writer is giving us a message about adult/child relationships. This story happened in the capital of imperial Russia and has two main and three minor characters. Aliosha, who is one of them, is an eight-year-old kid. Anton Chekhov presents him as very smart and intelligent. Aliosha was able to carry on a conversation with another main character, Nikolai Ilitch Belayeff, all the time even that he is 32 years old.
Nikolai is Aliosha s mother s lover who is rich and well respected in the community. He is a wealthy and influential supporter of local racetracks. Nikolai did not love Aliosha smother so much. Their relationship for him was long and boring. He never took notice before about Aliosha while he was visiting Aliosha smother, which showed to me that he is snobby. He would never bring himself to at a lower level and talk to somebody who is not rich as he is or not even more. This time he broke that unwritten snobby rule but just because he was bored waiting for Olga Ivanovna. Olga is Aliosha s mother who is divorced and unhappy with her life. She is a single mother with two children left alone to raise them on her own.
In that period of time, a father was the figure that would work and provide a living for the family. For some unknown reason, Olga does not allow Sonia and Aliosha to see their father. Pelagia who is house-made for Olga s family takes Sonia and Aliosha every Thursday and Friday for a walk before dinner. While they are out Pelagia would take them to a confectionery store incognito to meet their father. Sonia and Aliosha love their father very much. They like to meet with him. The father promised them that he would take them to live with him when they grow up. Aliosha was excited about that. He knew that life with his funny and lovely father would be interesting for him.
The conflict appears when Aliosha tells the story about him visiting his father to Nikolai. Na ve Aliosha thought that he could believe anybody who gives him a word. He was wrong, at least with Nikolai. Nikolai is one of those people who cares just about himself and nobody else. If he did not want to hurt Aliosha and still thought that he should tell Olga the truth he could wait to stay alone with her and tell her then. But he did not do that. He chose to say it in front of Aliosha even that he knows that he would hurt him and make him think, that there were things in this world besides pasties and watches and sweet pears, things for which no name could be found in the vocabulary of childhood. From that point, Aliosha realized that the world is no perfect and simple as he thought.
Even that Anton Chekhov wrote the story a hundred years ago and that since then a lot of things changed but still there are some things that did not change, and probably won’t ever. Adult/child relationship is one of them. Now and then most adults do not realize that a kid is a person who has feelings that could be hurt as much as an adult s feelings if not even more. Feelings and thoughts in childhood are things that shape and give the mainframe of life to any kid. If people are not careful with it they could be responsible for consequences that could appear later in the life of a young individual.
In reading the play “Trifles” the reader learns that two of the main characters, Mrs. Peters, suppress evidence that will help the county attorney establish the motive behind the murder of John Wright. I feel that the two women are morally obligated to tell the county attorney what they know. It’s the law plain and simple, and I believe in following the law. However, if it were me in the same situation I would have hidden the evidence too.
To understand the moral dilemma that faces Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, a few key topics that need to be brought to light. Such as some of the major symbols which are used as metaphors in this play, the role of women in 1916, and some character analysis on the two women. The first one is the comparison between Mrs. Wright and a bird. Mrs. Wright is described by Mrs.Hale as “kind of like a bird herself”. This was before her marriage to John Wright. However, birds are forced to live in cages, just as Minnie was forced to live in an abusive relationship in which her husband takes away all of her freedom.
Another important metaphor in this play is the rocking chair. “The chair sagged to one side”. Mrs. Hale stated that the chair was not anything like she remembered. This can be compared to how Mrs. Hale remembered Minnie years ago. “I wish you”d seen Minnie Foster when she wore a white dress with blue ribbons and stood up there in the choir and sang”. Notice how she refers to Minnie by using her maiden name. This shows how Minnie Foster, who was once something to look at, became the run-down looking Minnie Wright.
Just as the rocking chair depreciated, so did Mrs. Wright. Next, it is important to discuss the role of females at the time the play was written. We can start with the title. While it is known that the word trifle simply means something unimportant or of little value, the word is used in this play to convey how the men considered women’s duties, and maybe their opinions as well, to be insignificant.
Throughout history, there have been many works of literature that used the concept of gender roles. An example of one of these literary works is Trifles, written by Susan Glaspell in 1916. Glaspell uses the story of a murderess to demonstrate the roles of women in the early nineteenth century. These roles were given to them by men who thought that all that women had to do was to concern themselves with “trifles,” or unimportant things. This idea is repeated several times throughout the play, and the consequences of which are very ironic when it turns out that the woman discovers what the men were searching for while taking care of the so-called “trifles.”
The play starts with the men looking for a motive in the home of John and Minnie Wright. Right from the beginning, the men completely dismiss the kitchen as a place where anything of importance could be discovered. “Nothing here but kitchen things,” (1326) the sheriff says, right before he makes fun of Minnie for worrying about her fruit as she is being held for murder. This demonstrates how the men feel about the kitchen, which is considered a woman’s territory.
What goes on there and everything in it is unimportant and trivial, therefore the men want nothing to do with it. In one breath, the men make fun of Minnie for being “held for murder and worryin’ over her preserves” (1326), while in the next they start patronizing Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters. The county attorney says, “and yet, for all their worries, what would we do without the ladies?” (1326), insinuating that the gallant men “put up” with all of the worrying women do just because the men love them so much. The reality is much different of course. The men would quickly realize the value of their women when they had to cook, clean, and wash their clothes themselves.
Example #14 – What do Trifles Say about the Role of Women in Society?
The two best words to describe women in the 19th century were housewives and mothers. Some may ask why so? In the 1900s, men were the head of all marriages which transform the role of women during this era. As a woman in the 1900s, they mostly stay at home to cook, clean, take care of the children, and must obey their husband’s orders at all cost. Susan Glaspell’s play Trifles takes place at a farmhouse that involves a murder case. However, the play has a deeper meaning, the audience will realize that this play isn’t just about an ordinary murder case, but more about the gender differences towards women during this time.
The main theme that was shown in this play was gender roles, Glaspell’s message in this play is that women were treated unequally and lower than men which causes them to rise up and prove that stereotype wrong. As for women in the 1900s, they were treated unequally and less fortunate than men due to their gender and physical features. Men during this time kept their heads high in order to show how superior they are to the family. As the play begins, the audience can view the tension and pressure in Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters with the usage of body language and facial expressions. They both cross their arms and kept their head low, not wanting to look up. The body language of arms crossing has a significant meaning, most of the time that position is meant for a defensive stand for people who are afraid of something.
At the beginning of the play, Mrs. Hale along with Mrs. Peters both had their arms crossed which indicates that they are both afraid and nervous by being around Mr. Hale, the sheriff, and the attorney. As the play goes, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters begin to search the kitchen since the men thought the kitchen was nothing but fill with kitchen appliances which had no benefit to the crime scene. Once the men headed upstairs to further investigate, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, begin their search and they discover an empty birdcage along with a red box inside was a dead canary whose neck was broken that was wrapped around with silk. After finding the evidence, Mrs. Hale hid the dead canary in her dress to hide the evidence from the men.
This shows how Mrs. Hale understands and realizes how important the canary was to Winnie, and because of its death, it brought loneliness and isolation to Winnie forcing her to seek revenge. The course of actions that were made by Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters shows that women were underestimated and were not appreciated during this time. The men felt that they were much smarter than the women and decided to not search the kitchen since they thought the kitchen would not have the evidence since it was a woman’s place. However, as smart as they may seem, the women worked together and traced back all of the important evidence that could imprison Winnie, but instead of revealing the truth, they hid the evidence to protect Winnie.
This important scene shows that women can be much better than what they were expected to be. Their isolation from society can force them to break their barrier and caused them to do things they were not expected. As a result, this play is more than just a murder case, Glaspell creates a storyline to show how women were unappreciated and were well forgotten in society. Since this story was in the 1900s, women were considered as housewives and mothers which shows how gender was a very important factor during this time. However, at the end of the day, whether being a male or female, both genders are important in society. Susan Glaspell wrote the Trifles to bring awareness to the gender inequality that most women in the 1900s were facing to show how important their role can be in society.
Example #15 – Trifles’ Male and Female Characterization
In the one-act play “Trifles,” there are countless examples of symbolism and characterization through the use of strong female roles. By showcasing the women as leads in this play, it was able to take on a more feministic essence to it, which is something the readers might not have experienced had the play been written from the view of a man. Susan Glaspell was able to display an abundance of character development for a short play using strong symbolism and the prevalent idea of the point of view and roles between men and women because after all “women are used to worrying about trifles” (Glaspell).
Firstly, “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell is a one-act play originally performed in August 1916. This is a time period, as many know, where women are seen as lesser than men. At this time, women did not even have suffrage yet. The play starts off with the discovery of John Wright being strangled to death in his home. The county attorney and Sheriff Peters find Mrs. Minnie Wright to be the main suspect in this murder. Although these two men are investigating the murder, it turns out that Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale are the ones who are actually going to solve the crime. Of course, the men did not think anything of the women, they merely made remarks about the women worrying only about “trifles.” The men implied that women are lesser when talking about how women only care about trivial things.
Regardless, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale solved the case when they came upon Mrs. Wright’s dead bird, wrung by its neck. They realized that Mr. Wright killed Minnie’s bird and that it was the last straw. The women knew how poorly Mr. Wright treated Mrs. Wright during their abusive marriage. It became clear that Minnie murdered Mr. Wright as the final revenge of her dead bird. The women decide to stick together for Minnie’s sake and hide the evidence of the bird. They know how Minnie is feeling because they two have felt it in this oppressed lifestyle. The play ends with the case unsolved.
Moreover, symbolism is discovered in many parts of the play. For instance, the dead bird found during the play is symbolic for the marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Wright. It can be inferred that they were involved in a domestic abuse relationship. In the beginning, just like Minnie, the bird was exuberant and full of life. In fact, she was even compared to a bird by another character in the play. “She–come to think of it, she was kind of like a bird herself–real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and–fluttery. How–she–did–change” (Glaspell). This type of symbolism may very well be considered to be “2 by 4 symbolism” because of how evident the second meaning is. At the end of the play, it was revealed that Mr. Wright killed Minnie’s bird.
Readers can infer that this was just the final nail on the coffin and it is why Minnie decided to murder her husband. The dead bird makes it obvious to the readers that it stands for Minnie and her marriage. Mr. Wright had been chipping pieces of her away with his abuse. The dead bird means that it is the end. Another thing that stuck out to the readers is that the women were rarely called by their first names. They were all called “Mrs.” This means that the women are simply seen as property to their husbands. It shows that society thinks nothing of the women, they think that women are all a part of their husbands. Without their husbands, women are nothing.
Similarly, characterization was developed with Mrs. Minnie Wright’s character early on in the play through the point of the view of the men. In the beginning, it was described to the audience that she was extremely worried about her jars of fruit and the other chores around the house. This shows society’s role of women at this time in 1916. She is concerned about her household duties. The men made comments about Mrs. Wright’s worry about the preserves, saying “‘well! Can you beat the women! Held for murder and worryin’ about her preserves’” (Glaspell). As seen in this example, men think that they are far more superior to women. They think that all the women are good for is cooking, cleaning, and bearing children. The idea of women in this one-act play can be compared to the idea of women in the short story “Doll House.”
At the end of “Doll House,” the main woman of the story states that her husband sees her as nothing more than a doll. The situation is similar in the play “Trifles.” The men in this play see all of the women as mere objects. Both “Trifles” and “Doll House” were written in the early 1900’s so it makes sense that the view of the women was the same in both pieces of literature. Had either one of these plays been written from the main point of view of the male leads, these works may have been very different. It would be possible that the readers would get a glimpse of even more oppression of the women.
Even written from a mostly feminine point of view, “Trifles” still manages to show that the men reduced the women into objects whose main job was to worry about household chores. Overall, Susan Glaspell developed the men and women in this playthrough exuberant use of characterization. Every character was symbolic of something else in one way or another. The characterization of Mrs. Minnie Wright was primarily formed from the observations and thoughts of other characters. This also shows how women were seen in this time period. “Trifles” was a feministic piece that showed the oppression of the women through the clear point of view from the men and obvious symbolism.
Example #16 – The Gender Conflicts in Susan Glaspell’s Trifles
Our whole life consists of trifles, just someone notices them and someone not. The word trifle implies that something is unimportant and worthless. In the play by Susan Glaspell, where three men, the sheriff Henry Peters, the attorney George Henderson and the neighbor Mr.Hale, along with two women Mrs. Hale and the sheriff’s wife Mrs. Peters came to Mr. Wright’s house to investigate his murder. The sheriff asked the neighbor to tell what he saw on the day of Mr. Wright’s death when he went to his neighbor’s house. In the course of the story, women are separated from men. Two women came closer and went to the kitchen in order to continue their conversation there because they needed to collect some personal belongings take them to prison for Mrs. Wright who was accused of murdering her husband.
During the inspection of things, women noticed something that the men could not notice because they are convinced that women cannot worry about serious things. Men could not understand why a woman who had a normal life could kill her husband, while women found both the motive and the evidence of the crime. The author gave the play title trifles because of many small details and things were mentioned in the play such as stitches in a quilt, unfinished bread, dead canary, critic of men.
The first reason why Glaspell chose Trifles for her title because Mr. Hale said: Well, women are used to worrying about trifles” that she was worried more about her preservatives that jam would burst, but she was not worried at all about that fact that being accused of killing her husband (Glaspell, 16.) All men agreed that all women never worry about more important things than trifles. Holstein in her book says Trifles is a deceptive play: deceptive because, like its title, it seems simple, almost inconsequential. Yet the play represents a profound conflict between two models of perception and behavior. An exploration of the play reveals a fundamental difference between the women’s action and the men’s, a difference grounded in varying understandings of the home space.
That difference culminates, finally, in the establishing of two competing ethical paradigms (Holstein, 1.) The women noticed that before this unpleasant event Mrs. Wright had bread set, and she didn’t finish shifting it. This suggests that something bad interrupted her to finish it. Men initially came to the criticism of women’s interest in the quilt. They laughed at the fact that women think Mrs. Wright was going to quilt it or just knot it (Glaspell, 16.) However, this is one of those important Trifles that they need for evidence, but they did not pay attention to it. The main part of the quilt has been so nice and even, but they’re a small fragment where It’s all over the place (Glaspell, 16.)
Another detail that women found was a birdcage. The door was broken and one hinge was pulled apart. (Glaspell, 17.) It looked so it was opened with anger and forcibly. When they saw the cage, they remembered how well sang Minnie Foster like a bird, but she quitted when she got married. Trying to find scissors women found a box in which lies a canary with a broken neck. This detail showed the motive of Mrs. Wright why she killed her husband. If you observe life, it turns out that the most precious things in life are trifles: random words, smiles, looks, a little help, and support. Often, they bring more joy than something global and long. Unfortunately, Mrs. Wright was deprived of this. Subjected to many years of emotional abuse, she lost interest in life.
Her husband forbade her to sing because he hated noisy sounds. The only joy that she had all her life was the canary and that fact that he killed the canary killed everything alive in Mrs. Wright. According to the counselor Andrea Mathews, Emotional abuse is an attempt to control, in just the same way that physical abuse is an attempt to control another person. Difficult life on the farm left its mark on the emotional state. Society has a huge impact on people. Standards of that time were male superiority. The husband is the owner of the house while the woman is a keeper of the hearth. However, many women felt deprived, disadvantaged, depressed, and did not feel happy as well as Mrs. Wright. Based on information from Linda Ben-Zvi, this play is based on real events. In the work, she describes that it is a real story that happened at that time and Linda implies that Susan was present at the inspection of the house.
In Susan Glaspell’s Trifles, the author does more than reworking a tale of murder; she reveals in the telling the lineaments of the society that spawned the crime. The fact that women are united in support of by hiding the canary thereby hiding the evidence of guilt. Thus, they rebelled against the male society. Protecting Minnie Foster in this way, they violate the law that at that time men were creating. Our life consists of small trifles. It looks like a big puzzle that consists of small details and in order to get a big picture, we need to put all these little details together. Women from the play Trifles who were paying attention to the trifles were able to solve a more important problem. That is why the author titled the play Trifles.
Example #17 – Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles” and Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”: the Institution of Marriage
Oscar Wilde vigorously attacks the institution of heterosexual marriage in his play “The Importance of Being Earnest” by employing light comedy in order to portray characters that are shallow, immature, and oblivious about the commitment into which they are about to enter. Marriage is also harshly critiqued in Susan Glaspell’s play “Trifles,” a play that explores the hardships that women must face within the institution of marriage and the tragedy that befalls one woman pushed past her breaking point. Both plays are harshly critical of the institution of marriage, one through light satirical comedy and the other through a tragic story about a failed marriage. However, the somber impact of the more realistic story within “Trifles” provides a more harsh understanding of the institution of marriage than does the comedy, which its audience can easily laugh off.
In Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” the characters treat marriage as something frivolous. What they do treat as important are esoteric social norms, connotations of names, and trivial details. Cecily and Gwendolyn only want to marry Algernon and Jack because they believe that their names are Ernest. As Gwendolyn says to Jack early in the play, “…My ideal has always been to love someone of the name of Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence. The moment Algernon first mentioned to me that he had a friend called Ernest, I knew I was destined to love you” (10). In another part of the play, Cecily meets Algernon for the first time and believes he is Jack’s brother Ernest. She confesses her love for him and tells him all about how they’ve been engaged; she bought a ring for herself in his name and wrote herself love letters pretending they were from him (32).
The women base their love entirely on the belief that the men are named Ernest, which reveals their naivety regarding marriage. The frivolity with which these women fall in love suggests that relationships, too, are frivolous. Jack and Algernon diminish the institution of marriage in another way. During an early conversation about marriage proposals, Algernon says: “I really don’t see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why one may be accepted. One usually is I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If I ever get married, I’ll certainly try to forget the fact” (3). This dialogue indicates that Algernon believes commitment is something that ruins romance and perhaps, by extension, love – hardly a resounding endorsement of marriage.
Lady Bracknell’s idea of marriage is equally cynical. When Gwendolyn and Jack tell her they are engaged, Lady Bracknell tells Gwendolyn that “An engagement should come to a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she should be allowed to arrange for herself…” (12). She then interrogates Jack about his upbringing, property, and family to learn whether he is suitable for her daughter and society. Lady Bracknell does not see the love in marriage; rather, marriage is an institution that must sustain wealth and social class. Although Wilde’s play offers a very negative view of the institution of marriage, it does so in a lighthearted way. The characters are laughably extreme in their behaviors, and so Wilde’s criticism of marriage can be laughed off.
Susan Glaspell’s play “Trifles” takes the opposite approach. Although it is not primarily about marriage, it does deal with the negative effects of marriage on women. The play is a tragic story about how Mrs. Wright may have murdered her husband. The emotional impact of the play forces its audience to take its subject matter seriously. Unlike “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Trifles” isn’t directly about marriage – the topic of marriage is subtly hinted at by devices in the dialogue and setting rather than overtly flaunted by the characters’ mannerisms. The audience learns about Mrs. Wright as they see Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale going through her house, recognize the symbolism of Mrs. Wright’s things, and hear the comments the men make to the women in the play.
When the party first arrives at the house, the pans under the sink are unwashed, there’s a loaf of bread sitting out, and things around the house are unfinished. The disorder of Mrs. Wright’s housework seems to indicate disorder in her life. When Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are looking at her quilt Mrs. Hale observes, “Here, this is the one she was working on, and look at the sewing! All the rest of it has been so nice and even. And look at this! It’s all over the place! Why it looks as if she didn’t know what she was on about!”(1679). Mrs. Hale starts to pull it out and re-stitch it and then she asks, “What do you suppose she was so nervous about?” The implication here is that something was happening at that moment when her stitching faltered – maybe that her husband was being verbally abusive or aggressive at that time.
Also, the women find a broken birdcage and Mrs. Wright’s dead bird in her sewing basket. The bird’s neck had been wrung, and Mrs. Hale believes that Mr. Wright did it. The bird was beloved by Mrs. Wright – Mrs. Hale deduces that she was going to bury it in the “pretty box” they found it in (1681). If Mr. Wright did indeed wring the bird’s neck, it could be an indication of abuse. The bird can be considered a symbol of Mrs. Wright herself; indeed, Mrs. Hale refers to her as a “songbird” early in the play. Mr. Wright’s murder of the bird thus suggests the suffocation of Mrs. Wright socially and mentally as well. The bird’s murder motivates Mrs. Wright to kill her husband and confirms that their marriage was a failed one.
The dialogue between the women also helps us paint a portrait of the kind of marriage Mr. and Mrs. Wright had, and also of their own understandings of the difficulties of marriage for women in that place and time. Mrs. Hale describes Mr. Wright as having been a “hard man” (1680) – she tells the court attorney that she hasn’t been over Mrs. Wright’s house in a year because it “never seemed a very cheerful place” and that “…I don’t think a place’d be any cheerfuller for John Wright’s being in it” (1676). She also expresses guilt for not coming over to see Mrs. Wright because it was so un-cheerful in the house. She expresses her empathy for the way Mrs.
Wright must have felt: “I might have known she needed help! I know how things can be – for women. I tell you, it’s queer, Mrs. Peters. We live close together and we live far apart. We all go through the same things – it’s all just a different kind of the same thing” (1682). Mrs. Peters expresses similar sentiments when they discover Mrs. Wright’s dead bird. She talks about when her first baby died, and how she “knows what stillness is” (1682). Through this dialogue, we learn of the serious trials of marriage that women had to endure – the problems are true to life and utterly believable, and the dialogue has a heavy emotional impact.
Its somber tone, realistic subject matter, heavy symbolism, and believable characters make “Trifles” a more scathing indictment of marriage than “The Importance of Being Earnest.” The heavy emotional impact left by the former is more likely to leave an audience thinking about the problems in marriage than will a light-hearted comedy about a group of young, petty people who have very naïve ideas about what marriage should be. “Trifles” is harsher for another reason – it deals with the blunt reality of married life rather than just making fun of the kind of people who get married. Wilde’s frivolous characters might cause one to laugh at marriage, but Glaspell’s force an audience to really consider the institution and its potential costs.
Example #18 – interesting ideas
What do trifling mean? This dood keeps saying that Im trifling and he probably doesn’t know what it means either.
Answer. Trifling literally means small, or unimportant. So, you can be trifling or something can be a trifle, i.e. “I only have a trifle.” As a slang word, it tends to mean being concerned with small things. To say you are trifling means to be hung up or concerned about something unimportant. Your friend is probably using it all of the time because he has been hearing someone else say it because in some areas or with some groups the word can be very popular.
Trifles by Susan Glaspell? What is the obstacle and complication in the play Trifles by Susan Glaspell? Obstacle: Something that impedes the protagonist’s forward progress. A known problem. Complication: Something that suddenly arises and impedes the protagonist’s surprise.
Answer. ‘Trifles’ by Susan Glaspell – Plot and Character Analysis. The Basics: Farmer John Wright has been murdered. While he lay asleep in the middle of the night, someone strung a rope around his neck. And that someone might have been his wife, the quiet and forlorn Minnie Wright. Written in 1916, Susan Glaspell’s one-act play Trifles is loosely based on true events. As a young reporter, Glaspell covered a murder case in a small town in Iowa. Years later, she crafted a short play inspired by her experiences and observations.
Plot Summary: The sheriff, his wife, the county attorney, and the neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Hale, enter the kitchen of the Wright household. Mr. Hale explains how he paid a visit to the house on the previous day. Once there, Mrs. Wright greeted him but behaved strangely. She eventually stated in a dull voice that her husband was upstairs, dead. Note: Though Mrs. Wright is the central figure in the play, she never appears onstage. She is only referred to by the on-stage characters.
The audience learns of John Wright’s murder through Mr. Hale’s exposition. He is the first (aside from Mrs. Wright) to discover the body. We also learn that Mrs. Wright claimed that she was sound asleep while someone strangled her husband. It seems obvious to the male characters that she killed her husband, and she has been taken into custody as the prime suspect.
The attorney and sheriff decide that there is nothing important in the room: “Nothing here but kitchen things.” (Feminist Criticism Hint: This line is the first of many disparaging comments said to minimize the importance of women in society.) The men criticize Mrs. Wright’s housekeeping skills, irking Mrs. Hale and the sheriff’s wife, Mrs. Peters. The men exit, heading upstairs to investigate the crime scene. The women remain in the kitchen. Chatting to pass the time, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters notice vital details that the men would not care about:
•Ruined fruit preserves.
•Bread that has been left out of its box.
•An unfinished quilt.
•A half clean / half messy tabletop.
•An empty birdcage.
Unlike the men who are looking for forensic evidence to solve the crime, the women in Susan Glaspell’s Trifles observe clues that reveal the bleakness of Mrs. Wright’s emotional life. They theorize that Mr. Wright’s cold, oppressive nature must have been dreary to live with. Mrs. Hale comments about Mrs. Wright being childless: “Not having children makes less work – but it makes a quiet house.” To the women, they are simply trying to pass the awkward moments with the civil conversation. But to the audience, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters unveil a psychological profile of a desperate housewife.
Trifles by Susan Glaspell? How does the development of Mrs. Peters contribute to the overall statement Trifles makes about the validity of the Law? Does it suggest that the law has failed?
Answer. The other title of Trifles is “A Jury of Her Peers”. That is a very revelatory and appropriate title. I think the development shows that the only protection of the law for Mrs. Peters is going to be an understanding of her situation, in the form of the other two main female characters. The law did fail her in a failure to understand and thereby “serve and protect”. It was decidedly patriarchal in nature.
What is the thesis (argument) for the play ”Trifles” by Susan Glaspell?
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Answer. Spousal abuse. The wife, who has no way of leaving the marriage has had enough and kills her husband just like he killed the only joy in her life, her caged bird. Nobody notices the husband’s crime because on the surface everything about him seemed normal while the wife’s situation deteriorated over the years. The women knew, but in Glaspell’s time, women didn’t have a voice.
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