Susan Glaspell’s play “Trifles” dates back to 1916. The play was written in a period of great strife in both social and literary fronts. Glaspell’s play is based on real life events that she witnessed when working as a reporter. The play is based on the playwright’s observations as opposed to real life events.
“Trifles” features a scarce character pool of main characters. There are three women and three men in the play. All the characters in this play a vital role to the play’s development. Some of Glaspell’s characters in this play are flat while the others are more rounded. This essay explores the roundness or flatness of the characters in “Trifles” and their conformity to stereotypes.
The main difference between flat and round characters is that flat characters do not change as much as round characters do. Rounded characters seem more interesting because they develop in the course of the story. Round characters are also more believable because their complexity resonates with the audience.
On the other hand, flat characters remain static in the course of the play. In “Trifles”, the women characters are rounded as opposed to the men characters who are more flat. Glaspell uses a unique methodology of character development in her one-act play.
The main conflict in the play is the murder of John Wright. Although the murder is not solved in the course of the play, some characters are able to develop. The men characters are obviously flat characters. Mr. Hale and the sheriff are both middle-aged men who come to Mr. Wright’s house to investigate his murder.
Mr. Hale is a neighbor to the Wright family. His character does not undergo any major changes or transformations. Hale only provides information to the audience. We learn about details of the murder from Hale. All of Hale’s statements are static from the beginning to the end.
The sheriff’s character does not provide much input to the story. The only thing we know is that the sheriff is here on official duty. Most of his dialogue is used to reveal what is happening on the stage. Both the sheriff and Mr. Hale are not interesting characters and their input to the play’s plot is negligible.
The county attorney George Henderson came to Mr. Wright’s house in his capacity as an investigator. It is also probable that his job will also include prosecuting Mrs. Wright in case she is tried for her husband’s murder. He is portrayed as a young professional who looks down upon women. His initial feeling is that Mrs. Wright is guilty for the murder of her husband and she should be charged in court for it.
His conviction does not change throughout the story and his distaste for Mrs. Wright is evident. For instance, at one time he criticizes her house keeping skills. All the men in the play conform to stereotypes in several ways. First, they are quick to dismiss any ideas that come from the women even though they are crucial to the investigation (Glaspell 1095). The men believe that women cannot be of any help to the investigation.
However, in the end it is the women who find a possible motive to the murder. Moreover, the men expect the women to obey them and that is why the attorney does not bother to check them for any concealed evidence when it is time to leave the Wright’s house.
Both Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale are well-rounded characters and their character growth is evident throughout the play. Their characters’ development is verified through their feelings, emotions, and feelings. Mrs. Peters is the wife to the sheriff. She defends the men in the room by claiming that their actions are justified because they are only doing their jobs.
She does not seem very opinionated and tends to believe what the men-folk say. However, she is the first to discover that the birdcage is empty. She reckons that bullies are very hurtful and they too deserve to feel the pain they inflict on others. She moves from being a follower to being Mrs. Hale’s co-conspirator. She acts against the attorney’s wishes when she colludes with Mrs. Hale and they hide the evidence.
Mrs. Hale is the most rounded character in the play. In the beginning of the play, she is standing in a corner with Mrs. Peters until the men beckon them to get closer to the stove to seek warmth. Mrs. Hale was acquainted with Mrs. Wright even before she was married. After a few recollections, she starts feeling guilty for having neglected Mrs. Wright (Glaspell 1048).
She genuinely feels sorry for Mrs. Wright and jumps at the opportunity to help her by hiding the dead bird. The women in the play do not abide to any common stereotypes.
For instance, the attorney assumes that Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Wright are friends just because they are neighbors. This assumption is based on the stereotype that all women are social beings. The women also defy stereotypes by keeping the information they found in Mrs. Wright’s kitchen to themselves.
Glaspell, Susan. Trifles-The Heath Anthology of American Literature Vol D. Ed. Paul Lauter, Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. Print.
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