The Analysis of “Trifles” by Susan Glaspsell
Scholars have argued many things about the different point and approaches on “Trifles” by Susan Glaspsell. Different critics have had personal experiences, expressed the gender roles, and shown different motives Mrs. Wright and the other women had throughout the story.
The play begins with the immediate introduction of the five characters who make up the play: County Attorney George Henderson; Sheriff Henry Peters and his wife Mrs. Wright had cherished, an unfinished quilt, a broken and unhinged door), clues which made Minnie’s motive and the underlying theme of the play: women’s oppression at the hand of patriarchal society and male domination. Wright’s inability to keep house alongside a husband who “was a hard man” who would not make a room any cheerier for being in it (1768), not to mention a sense of guilt both women express at their failure.
Wright’s poor housekeeping in ways that irritate the women present, the county attorney leads the men upstairs so he can search the scene of the crime for a motive. Glaspell wrote several plays for the company, but Trifles is the best known and helped introduce the use of expressionist technique to the American stage. Trifles also introduces a technique that Glaspell reuses in other plays: The pivotal character never appears onstage. Wright killed her husband, but the men assume the women are still discussing housework.
The women discuss the state of the Wright household before Mr. Her deep involvement in the play’s topic led her to play Mrs. Wright feel more at ease in jail, they discuss Minnie Wright, her childhood as Minnie Foster, her life with John Wright, and the quilt that she was making when she was taken to jail. Clearly, this story haunted Glaspell, and understanding this play is central to understanding Glaspell’s career as a dramatist. However, through the process of attempting to help another woman by gathering items from her household that might comfort her in jail, they learn to identify themselves first as women and only secondarily as wives. Wright’s motive for the murder, the two women are condoning the crime, or declaring that it is not a crime, but justice for the suffering that John Wright inflicted on his wife.
Peters gather household goods for Minnie Wright, the two characters begin to reconstruct the accused woman’s life. As many commentators have noted, even today, despite the significant changes in women’s lives and opportunities since mid-century, women’s responsibilities and concerns tend to remain somewhat distinct from men’s. Clearly, as several feminist commentators have noted, the women are able to empathize with Minnie Wright because they share her experience. It is the women’s altemative path, the way they discover the evidence, that leads them to withhold it because they recognize that they are bound up in the texture of events just as Minnie Wright is. From the very outset, the men and women of the play perceive the setting, the lonely farmhouse, from diverging perspectives. Hale defends the accused women’s house- 286 THE MIDWEST QUARTERLY keeping from the county attorney’s attack. The plot of the play is not simply the women reading Minnie’s experience while the men read John’s, not simply a mural version.
Fifty years before the current women’s movement, Susan Glaspell understood how consciousness raising could empower women to take actions together which they could not take as individuals, how as women share their experiences, they could act out of a new respect for the value of their lives as women, different from, but certainly equal to, the world of men. In the novel upon which Legally Blonde is based, Amanda Brown writes a scene in which Brooke’s defense attorney softens toward her when Elle explains that Brooke has had to work for everything she has: her money, after being disowned by her parents; her body, after being called a “dumpy failure” by her own mother (146); and her marriage-as Elle says, “A woman my age who marries a man that old on the hope that he doesn’t write her out of his will and leave it all to his daughter anyway, that’s a woman who’s willing to work for her money” (136. Vivian has two lessons to learn: that her attempt at a unisex style cannot protect her from the sexism of a man like Callahan, who will always send women running for his coffee, and that Elle’s ultra-feminine style is not an invitation to or a guarantee of sexual pleasure for Callahan or any man.
The dichotomy between men and women in rural life,” an important feature of that dichotomy being the men’s “proclivity for the letter of the law” as opposed to the women’s more humane understanding of justice (“Apropos of Women and the Folk Play,” in Women in American Theatre: Careers, Images, Movements, ed. What is more, if we regard the men’s exits from the stage as marking these movements, we will recognize the first principal difference between the play and the story—namely, that the latter contains twice as many movements as the former and is therefore necessarily a more developed and complex work. Karen Alkalay-Gut observes three polarities in “Jury”: the opposition between the large external male world and the women’s more circumscribed place within the home; the attitudes of men and women generally; and the distinction between law, which is identified with “the imposition of abstractions on individual circumstances,” and justice, “the extrapolation of judg489 490 STUDIES IN SHORT FICTION from “Trifles. Uttering a hanality, she plays at being the shallow woman who helieves in superstitions, thus consciously playing one of the roles the men expect her to assume and concealing her keen intellect from them, her ability to extrapolate facts from small details. Hale is rejecting the men’s specious reasoning, complaining about the lawyer’s disdainful treatment of the kitchen things.
In “Laüstic,” after the wife states that she stands at the window to hear the nightingale’s song, the husband, apparently knowing the actual situation, orders his servants to set traps for the nightingale. But for both wives there is no escape, a point the husbands emphatically make through almost identical attacks on the songbirds. The wife in “Laüstic” (who remains nameless throughout, as do all the story’s characters) has fallen in love with a knight who lives next door and who adores her in typical courtly-lover fashion. In “Laüstic,” the wife wraps the nightingale in a piece of ornate fabric embroidered in gold and has a servant deliver the nightingale to her lover, along with a message explaining what has happened. Finally, in both works the grieving wife wraps the murdered songbird in what amounts to a beautiful coffin, an action that becomes associated with repaying the husband. Certainly a number of famous works associate songbirds with human desires to overcome confinement and limitation: Keats’s “Ode To a Nightingale,” Shelley’s “To a Skylark,” and Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium.”
The source depicts how both plays show the examination of the plot with two housewives. They both accompanying their husbands on the murder case. The story stands hard and firm on loyalty and sympathy. The women are going to always stand by the other women side because men put us down in a lot of ways. These two stories are having you questioning and putting piece together trying to figure out everything.
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