Social and Psychological Differences in Trifles by Susan Glaspell
In the play Trifles, by Susan Glaspell, the central theme of the play are the social and psychological differences between the men and the women. The male characters has a chauvinistic attitude towards women, while the women are more understanding and perceptive than the men in terms of trying to solve the crime. It is because of the men’s attitudes that led them to fail in seeing the truth of Mr. Wright’s murder. Their attitudes were blatantly apparent while they were assessing the crime scene at the Wright House.
Rather than being objective investigators, their negative views towards women and their discriminatory nature of the opposite sex caused them to overlook the situation and automatically branded Mrs. Wright as the killer with no regard for her emotions or state of mind at the time of the murder.
The men were more concerned with criticizing Mrs. Wright’s lack of proper homemaking skills than trying to find the reason behind the murder of Mr.
Wright. In line 157, while looking for evidence, the county attorney complains after washing his hands, “Dirty towels! Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?”, while kicking the pans under the sink. His irritation showed his negative attitude because the house was not kept in proper standards by Mrs. Wright. His actions alluded to his beliefs that since women stayed home as house wives, while holding no proper jobs in the world, they should at least keep the house up to par. He defends his opinions to the ladies in line 163 saying that “I know that there are some Dickson County farmhouses that do not have such roller towels.” When Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters quickly defended Mrs. Wright, his reaction was, “Ah, loyal to your sex , I see.” His demeaning undertone revealed his lack of respect for women’s societal roles and believes that women are inferior to men.
The women on the other hand, were more perceptive and sympathetic to Mrs. Wright’s situation. From the beginning, they were the ones that noticed the “little things”. The effort that Mrs. Wright had to caring for her house even though it was not perfect was not overlooked by the women. They were more sympathetic than the men because they themselves knew the flight it took to run a household, to which the men disregarded. The women were the ones that asked questions. They knew Mrs. Wright before she had married the cold and quiet Mr. Wright. They recalled that Minnie was a lively person and was always singing but later became recluse and closed off from the neighbors after marrying Mr. Wright.
They pondered whether or not she had a happy and stable marriage, going through many reasons as to what could have led her to commit such a crime. While the men were busy investigating upstairs, it was the women who found the bird cage as well as the dead bird in the sewing box. They compared Mrs. Wright to the bird in line 449. “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.” The women based their findings on facts and evidence as opposed to the indifferent attitude of the men. Though the women sympathized with Mrs. Wright’s situation, they believed that killing Mr. Wright was still wrong, however, their sympathy and understanding for Mrs. Wright led them to conceal the bird as evidence from the sheriff and the county attorney.
The play clearly showed a divide in opposing ideas and attitudes between both sexes. The men were more harsh, critical, rough and self centered where as the women were more intuitive, cautious and sensitive to the situation. Their differences led to them having contrasting opinions on the facts. The men’s judgments on women did not allow them to accurately and objectively assess the case where as the women we able to see things that the men overlook. However, though the men were not able to gather more evidence for the case, the women were the ones who found possibly the most important finding, which was the broken bird cage as well as the dead bird. Even after finding the bird, the women decided to commit a crime themselves by hiding the bird from the sheriff. Even though the women were more sympathetic they were still wrong for hiding the evidence. Thus alluding to the fact that the women’s emotional nature disabled them the same way as the men’s judgmental attitude.
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