Round and Flat Characters in “Trifles” by S.Glaspell’s Essay
Susan Glaspell, the author of the play Trifles, exhibits the behavioral nature of major and minor characters, which groups them as either round or flat characters. She constructs the play after working as a journalist researching on the murder of John Hossack hence categorizing it as a real story. In Glaspell’s play, the characters display stereotypes especially the gender and cultural stereotypes.
According to Wiehardt, round characters are the main characters in a piece of writing who face problems in their life that become their turning point (1). They undergo an awful experience that pressure them to change their character.
On the other hand, a flat character is an unprogressive minor character in a story that remains in the same position throughout the story (Wiehardt 1). In the play Trifles, the author strategically features two round characters like Minnie Foster and John Wright. However, the play has a good share of the flat characters like Mrs. Hale and Mr. Hale among others.
In her early days, Minnie Foster is a felicitous, melodious and always in good spirits girl (Glaspell 7). All her dresses have bright colors hence making her famous among other girls. Unfortunately, after her marriage to Mr. Wright her cheerful character turns into sorrow hence only somber mood prevails in her house.
One of Mrs. Wright’s neighbors, Mrs. Hale describes her character as a beautiful, fearful and cautious but all her behaviors disappear immediately after the marriage ceremony (Glaspell 5). Mr. Wright is Minnie’s husband whose character as uncouth, crude harsh turns him oppressive especially to his loyal wife. Minnie’s thirty year of marriage is void of happiness.
However, one night, Mr. Wright dies when he is asleep. Surprisingly, Minnie says that someone strangled her husband while she is deep asleep. Unfortunately, her husband’s friend Mr. Hale discovers the death and reports to the authority. The Sheriff and attorney ignore her claims hence choose to put her in remand. After critical investigations, the law convicts her of murder because there is no trace another person as she claims.
According to Wiehardt’s description of a round character, Minnie’s unchanging character categorizes her as one. Although Minnie has subservient and scheming character, her husband’s oppressive nature turns her into a murderer and outrageous woman hence kills her him after three decades of marriage. John Wright stands out as a round character dominated by chauvinism.
John Wright chauvinistic character makes him an oppressor especially to his wedded wife. He disrespects, hates and abuses his wife all the time hence turning his wife against him. Although he is uncouth, unfriendly and selfish, his wife overpowers him killing him instantly. John Wright becomes powerless and weak loosing his ability to overpower or control his wife.
The ability of Mr. Wright to change his domineering nature describes him as a round character. However, Gorge Henderson is a round character who is tough as presented by the author.
The county attorney, Mr. George Henderson is among the flat characters as described by Wiehardt. He is one of the law enforcers carrying out the murder case of Mr. Wright. He bases on his professional qualifications and experience to carry out the investigation. He is tough, serious and dismisses opinion from other people. Ironically, as a crime expert, he does not concentrate on Mrs. Wright’s Kitchen, which is woman place.
However, he focuses in the bedroom and the barn where her husband spends most of his time. As a law enforcer, he convicts Mrs. Wright to prison yet he has inadequate evidence. Additionally, he is unable to unfold one of the main evidence, a box, which describes Mrs. Wright as a murderer. The inability of the attorney to consider and be keen to other people especially women puts him under a flat character.
The other law enforcer at the crime scene is the Sheriff, Henry Peters. He backs up the attorney during the investigation. Likewise, he overlooks the areas in the house like the kitchen, which could nail Mrs. Wright down. Additionally, he has a contempt character hence kicks a basket belonging to Mrs. Wright yet it might the source of evidence. Peters has a non-dynamic, unchanging character categorizing him as a flat character. Mrs. Hale stands out as an ignorant but obedient flat character as the play unveils.
Mrs. Hale is the wife to Mr. Hale. Additionally, she is a neighbor to the Wrights but due to frequent fights in the home, she abandons the family. However, she turns up when a calamity hits the family, the death Mr. Wright. Although the sheriff and the attorney disapprove her contribution to the murder case, she loiters around the crime scene hence discovering a box that contains evidence against Mrs. Wright.
As a woman, she decides to ignore the law officers and hides the box. She displays her submissive and quietness as the society expects from her. Mrs. Hale’s character as obedient and submissive describes her as a flat character, she is not ready to break the law, therefore, secretly keeps the box with evidence.
Lewis Hale is a farmer, neighbor and a friend to the Wrights family (Wade 2). When he comes to visit his neighbors, he discovers the death of Mr. Wright from the wife. He decides to report the murder case to the police station. During the investigation, he follows the Sheriff and attorney because he is determined to unravel the truth.
However, his presence at the crime scene does not change situation. Mr. Hale character as a good neighbor, friendly and loyal to his character is non-dynamic even after he discovers a crime. The issue of stereotypes assumes a good share in the play through the way the author strategically allocates the different roles to her different characters who in turn successfully depicts the stereotypes ranging from gender to cultural.
The characters in the play display a high level of stereotype. There is both cultural and gender stereotyping. The men oppress women in the society, a situation women are unable to change. The play describes the kitchen as the woman’s place and not bedroom or barn. Due to discrimination, Mrs. Hale decides to protect Mrs. Wright as a fellow woman hence keeps away the evidence that she is a murderer.
In summary, there are two types of character in the play; round and flat characters. Mr. and Mrs. Wright are the round characters because of their dynamic nature. The rest of the characters fall under flat characters because their situation and behavior is stagnant in the play. Finally, stereotyping is an issue that the author fully exhibits in the play. The women are submissive standing out as ones who face oppression from the society, a role they willingly accept.
Glaspell, Susan. Trifles. England: Oxford UP, 1916. Print.
Wade, Bradford. ‘Trifles’ by Susan Glaspell – Plot and Character Analysis, 2009. Web. plays.About.com
Wiehardt, Ginny. ‘Flat character’ About .com. Need. Know. Accomplish. New York: Winnipeg, 2011. Print.
Wiehardt, Ginny. ‘Round character’ About .com. Need. Know. Accomplish, 2011. Web. Apr. 11 2011. Fictionwriting.about.com/od/glossary/g/Roundcharacter.htm
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