Characterization of Male and Female Characters

April 1, 2019 by Essay Writer

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 the 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 the women are all a part of their husbands. Without their husbands, the 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 the 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, the men think that they are far more superior than the 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 play through exuberant use of characterization. Every character was symbolic for 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.

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