Portrayal of Women in Trifles

August 8, 2019 by Essay Writer

In 1916, Susan Glaspell chose to publish a controversial play entitled Trifles. The play investigates the murder of a man with the main suspect being his wife. This piece of literature, like others at the time, was ridiculed for its feminism. What makes the play bold is that it shows how women are overlooked by a male-dominated society and capable of fulfilling a purpose outside of the home environment.Susan Glaspell was a journalist, novelist, and playwright who lived from 1876 until 1948. Unlike many women of her time, Glaspell was able to attain a college degree and hold a constant job outside the home. She was an active citizen in the early 1900s, when the women’s rights movement was at its peak and society was constantly changing. Glaspell was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her writing, and her writings were both unique and influential. Glaspell, though not directly a member of the women’s rights movement, did her part to support their cause. After being assigned a job to report on the murder of a man whose wife of 32 years murdered him with an axe, Glaspell wrote Trifles. Her writings are a clear defense to women and a plea for equality in a time where it did not exist. Glaspell was a woman ahead of her time, as she did not fit the housewife image that defined women then. She said and wrote what was on her mind no matter the outrage it might evoke in some.The text of Trifles introduces the reader to five characters, three men and two women. As the men search for evidence to prove that Mrs. Wright killed her husband, one remarks that “women are used to worrying over trifles.” The “trifles” indicated here, some fruit preserves that have gone bad, help the women to discover evidence that the men are in search of. Additionally, the male characters assume that nothing in the kitchen could possibly point to the murder. The kitchen is the place of the woman; they retreat to “places of man,” the barn and bedroom. Another key piece of evidence that the women discover, an undone piece of quilting, is mocked by the men in the play. They make jokes about the silliness of women and the simplicity of a woman’s mind in the face of important work. Again, this article proves to be a crucial indicator of the happenings leading up to the death of John Wright. Upon discovering the final clue, a dead canary wrapped in silk, the women choose to hide all of the information they discovered from the men, who have reached a baffled halt in their search for evidence to convict Mrs. Wright. The women come to understand the motives of their comrade and agree collectively that it is not the men’s right to hold her responsible for murder when the circumstances motivating that murder are ones that afflict all women oppressed in a society defined by their male counterparts.The original audience of this text would have been men and women in 1916, when the National Women’s Party was created and a presidential election was held. These two instances cultivated an audience for the play that was surrounded by the ideas of feminism, gender equality, and women as a voice in the law. Suffragists would have taken a liking to the play, while many men and anti-suffragist women may have been appalled at further advertisement of these ideals. This play, like other feminist writings, disappeared for many years following the height of the women’s rights movement. In the past thirty years this play has resurfaced as a defense of feminism and an article of women’s studies. The audiences that read the work today are not unlike those in 1916. Women and men read and enjoy Trifles as they participate in a culture that constantly searches to equalize its long-standing faults in society. Those that use it as a piece of women’s studies are educated individuals that can critique and recognize the sentiments that Glaspell suggests, while still being full participants in a world that remains divided by inequalities between genders. Some people recognize this fault in the world, while others deny it. This aspect of the audience holds true in both 1916 and today.The male-dominated society present in the lives of the audience and author is reflected in the text of the play. Glaspell expertly conveys sentiments of a need for equality by highlighting the importance and ability of women and their undervaluation by men. Glaspell herself was a testament to women’s empowerment through her education and career at a time when women were thought to be no more than housewives and mothers. Her play presents two women who use their intellect to find what the men assumed they could not. The audience is constantly split between members of a society that see a need to fight for equality and those who promote the static gender roles that neatly categorize men and women. Trifles recognizes the assumptions made by men concerning the inferiority of women and the opposing capability of women to act as integral parts of society outside of the home.

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