“Trifles” by Susan Glaspell
“Trifles,” by Susan Glaspell will continue to be popular with audiences 100 years from now because the themes will still be relevant. These themes include isolation, mistreatment, gender issues, and trial by jury. Most members of an audience today would not be able to relate to the setting of the play, especially since the play was written nearly 100 years ago and takes place in a rural area. However, the audience can relate to the characters and the situations they find themselves in because the problems they face are problems that people frequently face today.
Since these problems will be present in the future as well, the play will have a lasting popularity.
Even with advances in communication technology, there will be isolation in the future as Mrs. Wright was isolated, which will help this play endure. In “Trifles,” the women suggest that Mrs. Wright’s isolation may have contributed to her motive for killing her husband. The Wright household does not even have a telephone and her friends did not come to visit her.
Mrs. Hale did not visit because “It never seemed a very cheerful place.” Later, she says, “Oh, I wish I’d come over here once in a while! That was a crime! That was a crime! Who’s going to punish that?” and “She seems partially to blame herself for the murder because she let Mrs.
Wright be so isolated. Glaspell explains this theme perfectly when Mrs. Hale says, “We live close together and we live far apart.” Although they were neighbors, they did not socialize and had not seen each other in more than one year. Although it is easier to stay in contact with people now due to advances like the telephone, email, and the Internet, involuntary isolation will still be a problem in the future.
“Trifles” will also be popular in the future because people will continue to mistreat others as Mr. Wright mistreated his wife by being cruel and killing her canary. The women discuss the changes in Mrs. Wright that took place after she married Mr. Wright. Mrs. Hale says of Mrs. Wright before she got married, “She used to wear pretty clothes and be lively, when she was Minnie Foster, one of the town girls singing in the choir. But that–oh, that was thirty years ago.” In addition, Mrs. Peters says, “I wish you’d seen Minnie Foster when she wore a white dress with blue ribbons and stood up there in the choir and sang.”
Since she married Mr. Wright, however, she had changed significantly. She did not have any children or socialize with anyone, so she became withdrawn and quiet. Mrs. Hale says of Mrs. Wright, “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.” This shows that Mrs. Wright used to be carefree, but Mr. Wright changed all of that. Moreover, comparing Mrs. Wright to the canary shows that when he killed the canary, it was as if he killed Mrs. Wright too. Since she loved that canary, Mr. Wright mistreated Mrs. Wright by killing it. People have been mistreating others since the beginning of time, and they will continue to do so in the future.
In addition, gender issues like those in “Trifles” will probably be present 100 years from now. The most obvious gender issue is that the women know Mrs. Wright’s motive for killing her husband, but the men only think to tease them about housekeeping matters. The men dismiss the women as being concerned with “trifles” such as canned fruit, quilts, and other household items, and assume that they do not know anything important. The attorney says, “(I)t’s all perfectly clear except a reason for doing it.
But you know juries when it comes to women. If there was some definite thing. Something to show – something to make a story about – a thing that would connect up with this strange way of doing it.” The men need a motive to prosecute Mrs. Wright, but they cannot find it. The women have found the dead canary and know why Mrs. Wright killed her husband. Still, before they leave the house, the sheriff only says, “Well, Henry, at least we found out that she was not going to quilt it. She was going to–what is it you call it, ladies!” While society certainly has made big advances in the equal treatment of men and women, there are still problems today that will more than likely persist into the next 100 years or longer.
Finally, the theme of a trial by jury is in Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles,” and this theme will continue to appeal to audiences 100 years from now. This theme is related to the previous point because the women know Mrs. Wright was guilty, but they still decide not to tell the sheriff or attorney about what they found. In a way, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale were Mrs. Wright’s jury. The examined the evidence, discussed Mrs. Wright’s situation and motives, and found her not guilty. Specifically, they discovered the dead canary, talked about the significance of Mr. Wright killing the canary, and decided to keep this information to themselves.
The Sheriff unknowingly insinuates that Mrs. Peters is responsible for helping the investigation when he says, “a sheriff’s wife is married to the law. Ever think of it that way, Mrs. Peters?” Mrs. Peters hesitates when she answers, “Not – just that way.” She knows that it is her duty to tell her husband and the attorney about the dead canary and why Mrs. Wright killed her husband. This would help the men prosecute Mrs. Wright. However, in her opinion, Mrs. Wright is not guilty. The practice of holding trials by a jury are likely to be present in the future, so that theme in this play will continue to interest audiences in 100 years.
The themes of isolation, mistreatment, gender issues, and trial by jury in this play are easy to relate to even though Susan Glaspell wrote “Trifles” nearly 100 years ago. While not every member of the audience has experienced these problems in the way that Mrs. Wright experienced them, most people have experienced them in some way. For example, everyone was been isolated or lonely at some point in his or her life, and they surely have felt that they have been mistreated, whether the mistreatment involves someone killing a pet or something much less serious. Nearly all women, and even some men, have felt the unfairness of gender stereotypes.
In addition, many more people have been treated unfairly because of other stereotypes. Finally, everyone has been found innocent or guilty by a jury of their friends. Usually, friends do not decide whether you are guilty of murder or not, but peer groups are constantly judging other actions and decisions. Just as other plays have endured through the centuries, “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell also will be popular 100 years from now. Every member of the audience can relate to one or more of the themes and the situations in which the characters find themselves.
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