Everyday Roles And The Female Choice

1353 words - 5 pages

A work of literature often subtlety alludes to a situation in society that the author finds particularly significant. Susan Glaspell incorporates social commentary into her play Trifles. By doing so, she highlights the gender stratification that exists even in the most basic interactions and presents a way to use this social barrier to an acceptable end. Despite being written almost a century before present day, Glaspell’s findings and resulting solution are still valid in a modern context. Trifles demonstrates the roles of men and women in their everyday behaviour and interaction. The women use their ascribed positions to accomplish what the men cannot and have the ability to deliberately choose not to help the men with their newfound knowledge.
Trifles is an excellent example of gender stratification at the most basic level: everyday conversation and behaviour. Interactionists have observed common patterns which reoccur in everyday interaction between men and women. Like in Glaspell’s work, men have been shown to regularly change the topic of conversation and disregard a woman’s ideas. (Kumbamu) Throughout the play the County Attorney interrupts or considers the women’s concerns to be merely ‘trifles’ by wishing to ‘talk more of that…later.’(Glaspell 141) The women’s actions exemplify what are considered to be female behavioral roles. The women except and do not challenge the obvious male verbal dominance and instead prove to be adaptable to the circumstances and provide emotional support. (Kumbamu) Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale are unwillingly put into a ‘lonesome’ environment they normally would have stayed away from. (Glaspell 143) Despite their uncomfortable situation, they instinctually support each other and defend Mrs. Wright against the men’s criticisms of her housework because they ‘know how things can be – for women.’ (Glaspell 145) This knowledge is an ascribed female role and support is given no matter how ‘close together…[or]…far apart’ the women live – as a group, women ‘all go through the same things – it’s all just a different kind of the same thing.’ (Glaspell 145) As such, the support that women give each other is a natural process and is seen as their role in everyday occurrences. In Trifles, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters plan to support and comfort Mrs. Wright and ease her stress by not telling her that her fruit is not gone and bring in the one remaining jar to prove to her it is okay. The gender roles that Glaspell highlights in this play speak volumes about the stratification of men and women in society today. Even at the most basic, everyday level, women are naturally assigned what seem to be menial tasks such as listening, supporting, and obedience while men control conversation and dominate those around them.
This female disadvantage in everyday life can also be an advantage, as Glaspell demonstrates in Trifles. The roles that the women fall into during the course of the play result in them succeeding at the task...

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