3 December 2013
In Susan Glaspell’s play Trifles a man has been murdered by his wife, but the men of the town who are in charge of investigating the crime are unable solve the murder mystery through logic and standard criminal procedures. Instead, two women (Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters) who visit the home are able to read a series of clues that the men cannot see because all of the clues are embedded in domestic items that are specific to women. The play at first it seems to be about mystery, but it abruptly grows into a feminist perspective. The play Trifles written by Susan Glaspell can be considered a revolutionary writing in it its advocacy of the feminist movement.
Trifles is one play that really shows the conflict between gender roles in the early 20th century. At the beginning of the 1900s the idea of everyone having equal rights didn’t exist. Men clearly dominated every aspect of life, while women were often left with little importance. The oppression of women during that time stretched to the point that they were not truly acknowledge as their own person. Their sole purpose was to take care of their families by keeping house and performing their caretaker duties. According to the essay “Literary Context in Plays: Susan Glaspell” by Bailey McDaniel claims that Glaspell’s work Trifles is considered an observation on the demeaning, insignificant characterization of women’s labor and their lives within domesticity (McDaniel). Susan Glaspell really tries to emphasize this feminist view throughout the entire play.
Susan Glaspell uses literary elements that show the readers the feminist theme in the play. The use of characters in this play really shows the feminist theme the most. Men in this play clearly demonstrates how men were in the 1900’s. Male characters believe themselves to be far superior or higher than the female characters, even though, the men are minor characters in the play .The attorney displays this past male figure the best. For example, at the start of the play the attorney says: “what a nice mess” commenting about the house; then he says: “not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?” referring to Mrs. Peter and Mrs. Hale (1071). This clearly demonstrates how the attorney expects the women to take care of the house, and that it should always be spotless. By this the reader can see how women were treated in the 1900s by men. Also, male characters in the play don’t take seriously what Mrs. Peters say just because she is woman as it is stated in this portion of the dialogue:
MRS. PETERS: Oh, her fruits; it did freeze. (To the lawyer.) She worried about that when it turned so cold. She said the fire’d go out and her jars would break.
SHERRIF: Well, can you beat the woman! Held for murder and worryin’ about her preserves.
COUNTRY ATTORNEY: I guess before we are through she may have something more serious than preserves to worry about.
HALE: Well, women are used to worrying...