The Treatment of Women in Trifles by Susan Glaspell
"Trifles," a one-act play written by Susan Glaspell, is a cleverly written story about a murder and more importantly, it effectively describes the treatment of women during the early 1900s. In the opening scene, we learn a great deal of information about the people of the play and of their opinions. We know that there are five main characters, three men and two women. The weather outside is frighteningly cold, and yet the men enter the warm farmhouse first. The women stand together away from the men, which immediately puts the men against the women. Mrs. Hale?s and Mrs. Peters?s treatment from the men in the play is reflective of the beliefs of that time. These women, aware of the powerless slot that has been made for them, manage to use their power in a way that gives them an edge. This power enables them to succeed in protecting Minnie, the accused. "Trifles" not only tells a story, it shows the demeaning view the men have for the women, the women?s reaction to man?s prejudice, and the women?s defiance of their powerless position.
Throughout the play, Glaspell uses dialogue which allows us to see the demeaning view the men have for the women. Mr. Hale declares that "women are used to worrying about trifles" (958) trivializing the many tasks and details that women are responsible for. In his ignorance of how crucial their duties are in allowing a household to function smoothly, he implies their unimportance. The remark from the County Attorney about Minnie, "Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?" (958) was insensitive and unjustified. All because his hand found the sticky residue of her exploded preserves, a soiled spot on her roll towel, and some dirty pans in the kitchen. Due to the circumstances, Minnie?s mess is entirely due to her dire emotional state. These statements and others made by the men as the play progresses show the men?s shallow view of women?s intelligence and value.
The men?s prejudice is blatant and although it was easy for Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters to pick up on it, they react to it in a variety of ways. Defensively, Mrs. Hale, replies rigidly to the County Attorney?s remark by stating that "there?s a great deal of work to be done on a farm," (958) offering an excuse for Minnie?s lapse in cleaning. Later, he brushes her off when she explains that John Wright was a grim man. To the...