Gender Differences in Trifles
Susan Glaspell's play, "Trifles", attempts to define one of the main behavioral differences between man and woman. For most of the story, the two genders are not only geographically separated, but also separated in thought processes and motive, so that the reader might readily make comparisons between the two genders. Glaspell not only verbally acknowledges this behavioral difference in the play, but also demonstrates it through the characters' actions and the turns of the plot. The timid and overlooked women who appear in the beginning of the play eventually become the delicate detectives who, discounted by the men, discover all of the clues that display a female to be the disillusioned murderer of her (not so dearly) departed husband. Meanwhile, the men in the play not only arrogantly overlook the "trifling" clues that the women find that point to the murderer, but also underestimate the murderer herself. "These were trifles to the men but in reality they told the story and only the women could see that (Erin Williams)". The women seem to be the insightful unsung heroes while the men remain outwardly in charge, but sadly ignorant.
In this play, the men and women characters are separated even from their first entrance onto the stage. To the intuitive reader (or playgoer), the gender differences are immediately apparent when the men walk confidently into the room and over to the heater while the women timidly creep only through the door and stand huddled together. This separation between genders becomes more apparent when the characters proceed in investigating the murder. The men focus on means while the women focus on motive: action vs. emotion. While the men begin by asking questions of what happened like, "Tell now just what happened when you got in the house (1352)", the women begin by making more personalized observations like, "She said she wanted an apron. Funny thing to want (1355)". The women are more successful in discovering what really happened because they, unlike the men, attempt to generate the thoughts of Mrs. Wright.
Besides actually investigating the murder differently, the men and women of the play also look at Mrs. Wright differently. The men see the Wright's relationship from an outsider's stance; they know Mr. Wright to be a hard man, but have no cause to believe he was out of line in his treatment of his wife. Thus, they don't even consider Mrs. Wright's living conditions or spousal abuse as a motive. Probably, if abuse were even considered as a motive, it would be thrown out in the sexist farm society of this play. Meanwhile, the women look at Mrs. Wright's plight and what it must have been like to live in a house with practically no escape and no company other than the hard Mr. Wright. They understate their thoughts to the men saying, "But I don't think a place'd be any cheerfuller for John Wright's being in it (1354)". The...