"Trifles" A One-act Play by Susan Glaspell
The play Trifles was written in the year 1916, with the context of the play being in a kitchen, and any surrounding that that portrays the lives of women in the 1900’s. It demonstrates the preoccupation of the writer in a culture that defines roles for different genders and sex. A Trifles imply something of minor or no importance.
The women in this society are portrayed as trifles, which has no any value only meant to stay in the kitchen. They do not seem to be of any great importance, whereas men are perceived as crucial by the roles they perform. During the 1900’s, women were viewed as house wives who were expected to cook, clean, and take care of the children. With not much of a choice, women were to accept such treatment from society. Glaspell was a Pulitzer prize-winning actress, playwright, and novelist. Even though she was born in a male-dominated era, Glaspell succeeded and became a reporter where she covered murder cases and investigations. She quit being a reported to fulfil her dream and began writing and publishing fiction stories. Not only did Glaspell regard herself primarily as a fiction writer, but she was critically accepted as an American novelist of integrity and importance in the mid 1930s (Carpentier 93). Although most of her stories and plays were short, it gave her the prestige and recognition for the impact in her writing. She wrote most of her plays to have a message about women and their roles in society, and their relationships between men and women. Most of her writing was geared towards feminism because she wanted to show how differently women were treated through her plays. This disrespect is portrayed in her most popular play Trifles (1876-1948). As Galens highlights, Trifles is a murder mystery that explores gender relationships, power between the sexes, and the nature of truth. The context of this study surround the murder of John Wright, found lying on the bed in his house having been strangled. Minnie Foster-Wright, John’s wife, is treated as the first suspect of the killing. The women in the play, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale are the main participants alongside the county attorney, a witness and Mrs. Hale’s husband. In the approaches of the murder scene the men seem to be more worried about judging Mrs. Wrights’ housekeeping, whereas the women, knowing the hardships of housekeeping, approach it as a home. The men within this play betray a sense of self-importance.
They present themselves as tough, serious-minded detectives when in truth, they are not nearly as observant as the female characters. (Bradford) The viewing of crime by both men and women is portrayed to be differently. The women had information about the suspect of the murder from the evidence they witnessed in the kitchen. However, due to the ongoing abuse of women in the society they opt to cover up for their counterpart. On the other hand, men do not consider entering the kitchen to where the evidence is open. This is because the men treat the kitchen as the affair and world of women and as a result of this they end up leaving an open truth behind. During the witnessing of the crime scene investigation, while in the kitchen, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale instantly observe the type of life Mrs. Wright has been living- one that is isolated and supressed. As a result, they end up keeping quiet and hiding the evidence at the end of the play. This portrays the level of dominance of men in society and how women were forced to live in a different environment from other people, such as in kitchens as evident on Mrs. Wright’s case. The men further demonstrate dominance over women by the fact that women are not allowed to contribute to the investigation although they could have offered better solutions leading to the apprehension of the suspect. However, despite the dominance of the men, their competence and the effectiveness remained questionable leading to no fruitful findings. Rob Hardy (202) analysed that Mr. Peters, the sheriff, has come looking for clues- but it’s the women, with an eye for the details of domestic life, who come closest to reconstructing the crime. In the scene of the crime, women seem to be closely united. The use of symbolism in the story shows the level of women in society. For instance, the shattered jar of cherries preserves represents a woman’s hard work during the hot long days of summer. Mrs. Hale instantly sympathized with Mrs. Wright There’s a great deal of work to be done on a farm
Can a woman be justified in murdering a husband who has psychologically abused her? (Rudnick 389). The caging of the bird in the house demonstrates another instance of men dominance in society over women. Symbolically, the living of bird in the cage demonstrates the kind of life Minnie was living- a life that was minimal and had no freedom. Mrs. Wright, as many women during that time, was not allowed to freely move out of the house and escape such instances. The murdering of her husband was the only escape she had to freedom. As David M. Galens stated, Minnie, is driven to kill her husband as a result of the hopelessness and desperation she feels from her isolated and joyless life. This illustration describes the level of confinement of the women in society and the level of misuse up to the extent of not being allowed to mix with others. The approach of seeking the evidence that would lead to the identification of the suspect by both genders was quite different from that of women emerging more effective and successful. This act as evidence that women have the capability of realizing little things, trifles, while men do not pay any attention to these minor but important details.
The bonding of women evidenced in the play had resulted from the fact that they shared the same background of oppression, dissatisfaction, and frustrations, resulting from the gender differences. This made them live in sympathy of each other. The hiding of the bird was a form of unity amongst the women with a motive of challenging the judiciary system that was dominated by men. They were making every possible effort to protect Mrs. Wright from being identified as the suspect to the murder of her husband, John Wright. Author Orit Kamir (70) noted: Glaspell’s women realize that accepting the legal system’s interpretation of Minnie would entail accepting a system of meaning in which all abused women are either evil or crazy. It is a system of meaning that excludes their perspective, obviating their subjecthood and status as human beings. It is a system of power that is bluntly and blatantly set against them, one that is inherently unjust and dangerous to them as women. Accepting it would mean self-denial and self-annihilation. Resistance and disobedience are therefore acts of self-defense and self-preservation whereby the women preserve their dignity, humanity, and sanity. They have endured hard work, isolation, daily patronizing, and mockery, but this legal dismissal and dominance threaten the core of their existence, and they must confront it. And since it is a women that the law challenges them, they unite against it as a community of women. Mrs. Wright was a beautifully caged bird that was trapped in the darkness of her marriage with John Wright. This portrays the level of men dominance in society to the extent that women are not allowed to exercise their freedom and passion. Killing of bird that was the only company Mrs Wright had symbolized the willingness of the men to dominate the women in the society. Mrs. Wright was also not allowed to socialize with the outsiders, for instance, there existed no telephone in their house despite being trapped there for long.
From the narration, (Mrs. Wright) used to wear pretty clothes and be lively, when she was Minnie Foster, one of the town girl singing in the choir. But that-oh, that was thirty years ago. She was previously well known as a good singer in the church choir specifically before her marriage. However, after her marriage, there was a drastic change. Her beloved bird kept her company during those lonely days since she did not have any children. The dominance of her husband changed her personality making her to live a life full of limits. Contrary to viewing the home as an arena of comfort, most of the women viewed their homes as a ground full of oppression and abuses. Reflecting the living of Mrs. Wright, her home was just a ground of torture and psychological abuse, where all she lived with is fear that took a better part of her. Mrs. Wright’s house was dominated by silence. The extent of silence is symbolically demonstrated by the nonexistence of telephone in Minnie’s house and the violent murder of the bird, the closest company she had was the bird her husband possibly killed. This is clear evidence that there exists a higher possibility that Mrs. Wright was being abused by her husband leading to her isolation from the church choir and the fellow women. The violated individuals tend to isolate themselves from others in fear of being asked what they go through. The life of Mrs. Wright is clear evidence that not all women are content with their marriage life, but instead opt to hide their problems from their friends and extended relatives. Women do this in their attempt to prevent their marriages from breaking. Mrs. Hale reminds us how difficult it can be to be a woman with oppressionI know how things can be-for women. I tell you, it’s queer, Mrs. Peters. We live close together and we live far apart. We all go through the same thing-it’s all just a different kind of the same thing (45).
In conclusion, from the observation of various happenings and the unfolding of the play, the writer has demonstrated the increase of dominance in the society. Here, the man expresses the patriarchal relations and regard themselves to be more senior than the women. Example of such instances is when the males arrived at John Wright’s home as investigators while the women arrived as mere witnesses and their opinions about the solution in the investigation is disregarded. The denial of freedom to the women also expresses the state of oppression that women experience at their homes. For instance, Mrs. Wright had been trapped in her house by her husband. This violates her freedom of movement and association with others. The killing of the company she had, a bird, is also open evidence of the violation of women rights in the society. Mrs. Hale described Mrs. Wright (as being) a bird herself- real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and-fluttery. How-she-did-change. However, at various instances of the play, there is a description of the attempts the women are making in the protection of their affairs. Women unify and stand for one another in a potential threat resulting from the dominance of the males. Hiding of the bird that could have acted as a motive shows the level of support among the women. Besides, the women successfully give evidence and other forms of assistance leading to the identification of the suspect in the murdering of John more effectively than men could manage.
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