“Trifles” and the American Experience
Brian J. Moye
Anne Marie Fowler
April 15, 2013
“Trifles” and the American Experience
Susan Glaspell’s one-act play “Trifles” was written in 1916. It was written based on real events. When Glaspell was a reporter, she covered a murder case in a small town in Iowa. Later, she wrote this short play which was inspired by her investigation and what she observed. Glaspell used irony, symbolism, and setting in her creation of the authentic American drama, “Trifles”, to express life for women in a male-dominated society in the early nineteen hundreds. Glaspell identifies the inferiority of women by using body language throughout this play. From the very beginning, they are in some ways timid where they stand. The women stand close together. The women enter kitchen and stand close together near the door (Glaspell, 2011). As the drama within the play escalates, and each time the men criticize Mrs. Wright, the women tend to move even closer together. This portrayal of body language by women throughout this play is Glaspell’s way of showing the bond of women and their understanding of how they are viewed by men. Trifles are most commonly described as things of little or no importance or things with little or no value. Most men viewed women as trifles, along with the little hobbies they enjoyed, or items that were special to them. Mrs. Wright had many items that were special to her along with her hobbies within the kitchen and the hobby of quilting, as did other women during the early nineteen hundreds, yet to the men, these things were considered trifles. Glaspell clearly shows the inferior position of women in early twentieth-century America as well as the differences between men and women. Dramatic irony within “Trifles” is displayed in the play as the women find the evidence of the murder that would help to prove that Mrs. Wright was the one who killed her husband, but they would never tell the men. In this era, the women were always going along with the men in what they said, even if they did not agree with them. This was what women had always done, and were expected to do. The men felt they were superior to the women. They felt the women should not have the right to vote, nor have a say so in every day decisions. Therefore, in this case, the women stuck together because they felt the need to take up for one another. At times, they felt sorry for one another, especially Mrs. Wright, and the way she was treated. It was Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters who took note of Mrs. Wright’s trifles within the kitchen. The sheriff, the attorney, and the neighbor boast about their abilities to problem solve. They portray themselves to be great detectives. The men belittled the women about the little things they were looking at because they were womanly and within the woman’s domain, the kitchen. The men spent more time in other areas of the house looking for things of more significance. Little did they know, they were only hurting themselves by overlooking some very important clues that would help them solve the murder. The women make the decision together to withhold the information they find from the men, thinking the men probably wouldn’t listen to their thoughts anyway. During this period of time, very few women had paying jobs. Those who didn’t were not recognized for doing anything worthwhile for their society, especially like doing the job of the men, which was to find out who killed Mr. Wright. The women felt if they did tell the men what they found, the men would take the credit for solving this crime. Throughout history, the woman’s role was to be a respectful and obedient wife. The woman’s main duty was to support and serve her husband, and live for him and their children. The men in this play feel that the women are not good thinkers and cannot begin to harm any of their investigative work. This withholding of evidence was to some extent the women’s way of doing just this....
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