Feminist Deceit in Short Stories Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Jun 23rd, 2020

Introduction

Overtime, individuals have evolved and initiated pronounced changes in their social settings. Some of the changes instigated by people especially in several western countries comprise the idea of accepting women and appreciating their roles in the society. Presently, several people in various countries around the globe understand that women and men are equal and share a similar set of thoughts, ideas, and opinions.

As a result, women have enjoyed the autonomy of sharing their ideas, suggestions, and perspectives with their male counterparts. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, women were discriminated and despised by men, who dominated and limited their movements within homesteads. At the time, several women were compelled to behave in strange ways in an attempt to achieve their goals and fight the pronounced male dominance and oppression. Female deceit or pretence was one of the ways that women used to achieve their objectives and present their ideas in the male dominated society. Therefore, the essay assesses feminist deceit using short stories which are the ‘Trifles’ and ‘The Revolt of Mother’.

Gender Disparity

The short stories ‘Trifles’ and ‘The Revolt of Mother, represent late 19th and early 20th centuries, a period when gender discrimination was a common phenomenon. At the time, men despised women and looked at them as lesser beings that played a major role in kitchen and around the homestead. Conversely, men involved themselves in outdoor activities and practiced self-rule and dominance. In essence, the presence of women in the society was not felt since they were passive and undertook most of their chores in silence. According to Freeman, women played most of their activities in the kitchen and rarely objected the opinions of their male counterparts (3). The assertion explains the fact that the society looked at women as objects that were there to help the men achieve their goals, which in most cases undermined their feelings, thoughts, and opinions.

Overview of the Short Stories

Trifles

‘Trifles’ is a short story that involves a woman, Minnie, who murders her husband, John Wright, and lies that someone executed the murder at night when they were sleeping. In the story, the woman explains that an unknown assailant, who flees after undertaking the heinous act, strangled the husband at night. According to Ben-Zvi, during the interrogation, the woman gives explanations that mislead the people, who are investigating the murder (150).

When the people enter the house of the murdered man, the wife explains that she does not know the murderer because the act took place at night. Since the wife provides misleading and false explanations, the men fail to identify the murderer or find any lead associated with the murder. Imperatively, act of despising and downplaying female dominated areas by men contributes greatly to their failure to achieve substantial progress in their investigation.

In the story, male dominance and female oppression is clear from the beginning when men become the first to enter the house followed by women. The act of men being the first to enter is symbolic demonstrating the perception that men were leaders and rulers. In addition, it is evident that men despised areas that women undertook their roles and believed that they were insignificant.

Therefore, the women, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale, are the ones, who discovered the key evidence. Out of the prejudice that men had on the areas associated with women such as the kitchen, they neglected these areas and searched other places like the bedroom, and thus, failed to attain a productive conclusion on the murder. During the investigation, the sheriff, Mr. Henry Peters, states that ‘nothing here but kitchen things’ implying that whatever was in the kitchen was immaterial to the investigation (Ben-Zvi 150). The statement presents a concept of male dominance and self-autonomy that misled their investigation.

Furthermore, male dominance misled investigation since men believed that the women could not undertake such act. Therefore, they went ahead, searched all other places, and believed that Minnie, the wife of Mr. Wright, was correct when she said that someone killed the husband at night. The despise on women led to absence of conclusion in the murder after the women, who discovered key evidence concealed them in support of their female counterpart, who murdered her husband to attain freedom from oppression. Ben-Zvi highlights that when the women found out that Minnie was the murderer, they experienced a moral dilemma (156). The moral dilemma entailed telling the men about the murderer, who was their female counterpart or concealing the evidence in support of their colleague.

When the two women discovered the canary’s body, which appeared to have died in a manner similar to Mr. Wright, they concluded that indeed Minnie was the murderer. However, the women empathized with Minnie and concealed the evidence, thus preventing the men from acquiring them and executing the required sentence on the murderer. It is paramount to highlight that the act of concealing the evidence emanated from the oppression subjected to women by men. Ben-Zvi asserts that the women decide to conceal the evidence in their quest to cushion their colleague from the wrath of men (153). By concealing the evidence, it is clear that women needed some kind of freedom from men and although the act committed by Minnie was heinous, they still empathized because to them it was way of achieving freedom from male dominance and oppression.

The Revolt of Mother

‘The Revolt of Mother’ is another short story, which presents the oppression that women suffered during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in many western countries. In the short story, Mrs. Penn is a wife of a farmer, who is constantly developing the farm and buying new livestock, but does not consider the various elements that concern the homestead. While the house that they live in is degrading and slowly wearing out, Mr. Penn is continually establishing more barns, buying more livestock, and acquiring more horses. Freeman states that the act of neglecting the significance of the house makes the wife to demonstrate some kind of rebellion against the husband (11). When the wife moves into the new barn built for cows, the villagers think that the wife is not sane because at the time, women were not expected to rebel against men.

In the short story, male dominance is evident from the acts of several male characters used by the author. For instance, Mr. Penn, the husband of the woman, who later rebels, is a man, who disregards women. Some of the major scenarios that demonstrate the disregard take place when the wife realizes that the son, Sammy, is aware of several plans that Mr. Penn, the father, has, while the wife is oblivious.

According to Freeman, the act presents Mr. Penn as a man, who regards and respects the male members of the society as opposed to the women (3). Moreover, after rebellion and relocation to the new place, Mr. Hersey visits with the intention of persuading Mrs. Penn to respect the husband by moving back to the old house before Mr. Penn returns. The act performed by Mr. Hersey clearly presents men as autonomous and dominant to a level that no woman should go against their will.

The author presents men as the sole decision makers of the family, who make decisions concerning several family issues. On the other hand, women are supposed to work for their husbands by cooking for them, washing their clothes, and taking care of children. As such, while men are outdoors performing a range of activities, women are indoors undertaking household chores. When Mrs. Penn asks, “What are them men diggin’ over there in the field for?” the husband does not reply (Freeman 1). Conversely, after insisting, the husband tells her to go back to the house. It later emerges that the men are working on a cellar for the new barn, something that the wife is unaware. The statement by the husband telling the wife to go back into the house clarifies the fact that men believed that women were supposed to work in the kitchen and not to question the activities of their husbands.

Apparently, Mr. Penn does not submit to the requests made by the wife concerning the poor state of the house, but continues acquiring new livestock and constructing new barns. By failing to accept the requests from the wife, the author displays him as a chauvinist, who despises the opinions of women. It is ironical that the son, Sammy, knows the plans of the father, while the mother is oblivious.

The implication of the irony is that irrespective of the age, the significance of the son exceeds the importance accorded to the wife. In addition, from the discussions in the house, Mrs. Penn tells Nanny, the daughter, that men are similar and that she must be ready for a similar treatment from her husband (Freeman 4). The discussions bring to the fore opinions of women, who are disillusioned and powerless in a male dominated society.

The Deceit

In the two short stories, the act of deceit is evident in a number of instances. For example, in ‘The Trifles’, women pretend that they know nothing about the murder of Minnie’s husband, John Wright, when they have very important evidence. Moreover, the wife of the murdered man, Minnie, demonstrates the character of pretence or deceit, and hence, misleads the men, who believe that she did not kill the husband. Through deceit or pretence, the women mislead the men, who fail to get the evidence required to identify the suspect. Moreover, through their act of deceit, women conceal the most vital evidence that would be useful in arresting the murderer of John Wright (Ben-Zvi 153). The ability to conceal the evidence without a challenge occasions because men look at the women as lesser beings and believe that they are innocent.

In ‘The Revolt of Mother’, feminist deceit is apparent from the acts undertaken by Mrs. Penn, who rebels against the husband and relocates to the new barn in his absence. Freeman elucidates that the act of rebellion is unbelievable, and thus, Mr. Penn is astonished upon his return (13). It is important to explain that during the period, it was unexpected that women could rebel and act against the will of their husbands. Therefore, by rebelling and relocating to a new house, Mrs. Penn applied some kind of deceit. Some of the factors that compound the deceit from Mrs. Penn comprise the ability to maintain the passive character until the correct moment arrived when the act of relocation materialized. Apparently, the act surprises even the villagers, who spare some of their time and watch the unexpected rebellion from the wife. The deceit is remarkable because all through, Mrs. Penn was a peaceful and passive woman, who respected and loved the husband.

Achievement of the Advanced Agendas

Through deceit, the women effectively achieve their desired agendas and triumph in a male dominated society. In ‘The Trifles’, the main agenda that the women desired was freedom from oppression subjected to them by men. Additionally, in the ‘Trifles’, Minnie used to sing but stopped after she got married. According to Ben-Zvi, by murdering her husband and applying feminist deceit or pretence of innocence, the agenda of freedom becomes attainable especially when the women conceal the evidence that would lead to her imprisonment (153). Some of the main factors that made Mrs. Wright stop singing were the restrictions that the husband subjected to her after marriage. Fundamentally, men did not permit women to engage in many outdoor activities such as singing during the time, and therefore, Minnie had to stop singing after getting married.

On the other hand, ‘The Revolt of Mother’ uses women to demonstrate how their application of feminist deceit leads to successful achievement of their desired agendas or goals. In the story, the main character, who is Mrs. Penn, wanted a new house promised by the husband. By pretending to be loving, caring, and patient, the husband thought that the wife was unable to engage in an act of rebellion undertaken towards the end of the story (Freeman 14). Feminist deceit appears from the woman, who decides to be faithful to the husband avoiding arguments and listening in silence to the discussions of her husband. When the right time came, the wife rebelled and relocated to the new barn, an act that surprised the husband and compelled him to accept all the requirements advanced by the wife in the aftermath. From the events in the story, use of feminist deceit or pretence led to successful achievement of the desired agenda that the wife wanted from the husband.

Conclusion

The short stories the ‘Trifles’ and ‘The Revolt of Mother’ use characters that dissemble and employ deceit to achieve their goals. In the stories, the main characters employ feminist deceit to achieve their desired agendas. For instance, in the case of the ‘Trifles’, Mrs. Wright, the main female character employs feminist deceit to ensure that she achieves freedom from male dominance and oppression. Although the act is heinous and involves murder of the husband, her deceit blinds investigators, who believe that she is innocent and leads to absence of evidence. Consequently, in ‘The Revolt of Mother’, Mrs. Penn employs deceit to achieve her desired agendas and compel the husband to construct a new house. The deceit is evident from her passive character that misleads the husband to believe that she is incapable of rebelling.

Works Cited

Ben-Zvi, Linda. “Murder, She Wrote”: The Genesis of Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles.” Theatre Journal 44. 2 (2010): 141-162. Print.

Freeman, Mary. The Revolt of “Mother” and other Stories. Mineola: Dover Publications, 2012. Print.




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