“a Doll’s Trifles” a Essay Comparing the Plays “Trifles” and “Dollhouse.”

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“A Doll’s Trifles”

A essay comparing the plays “Trifles” and “Dollhouse.”

Joshua Long

English 102 Amy Lannon March 21, 2012 Our society’s gender roles are constantly evolving and changing, all in the name of “progressive thinking”, though not all for the good. With a new “social norm” appearing every few years or so, it comes as a surprise that it has been a relatively short time since women have broken through their defined roles to be seen on the same level as men on a social basis. Many of history’s pages are written from a patriarchal perspective, opening the way for the female protagonists and complimentary characters in Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles” and Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” to make us rethink those gender roles through the events that occur during the plays and through their own complexity, providing interesting points of comparison and contrast between the plays and challenging audiences to think about gender roles in a new way. Both these plays are centered around married couples and are told from the perspectives of their respective female characters. In “Trifles,” we are introduced to Mrs. Wright and her fellow cast of characters a day after the murder of Mrs Wright’s husband. The play takes place after the fact, and much of the script is built around a conversation between Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters (women from the same rural town as the Wrights) about whether or not Mrs. Wright really committed the murder. The reader believes the entire time that she did, but is compelled to continue to find out why. “Trifles” is about a woman who murders her husband and two other women who lash out against their gender roles by withholding evidence from their husbands. Much shorter in length and lighter in tone than “A Doll’s House, with “Trifles” Susan Glaspell gets her point across quickly, while Idsen takes his time in grinding his message home. In “A Doll's House” the critical aspects of the play are also divulged before the curtain is lifted. It is discovered that Nora, a woman who seems at ease with her gender role, has circumvented her husband’s will and has been paying off a debt behind his back for years, doing so as she resorted to having forged her father’s signature to help her get said loan. We further learn that she has no problem lying to her husband about this to preserve the peace in their marriage, Nora would rather Torvald continue to think of her as a “spendthrift” than as a woman in debt, causing the reader to feel uneasy with the assumption that she is your average housewife character. A particularly interesting comparison exists between these two women protagonists in that both of them are compared to birds. Torvald calls Nora his “lark” (Ibsen 1259), and Mrs. Hale openly says Mrs. Wright “was kind of a bird herself”(Glaspell 1054). While these seem to be innocent metaphors on the surface, darker tones soon overtake them as the plays progress—birds can be trapped in cages in the same way that women might be considered to be trapped into their gender roles, where their duties are not to themselves but to their husbands and children(Helium 3). We do discover this theme in “Trifles,” when a literal canary is found strangled and its dead body sewed in the pocket of a quilt—strangled by Mr. Wright and sewed away by Mrs. Wright, the same way Mrs. Wright’s spirit and free nature was discarded in order to serve her gender-assigned duties. Indeed, we actually see in her character a desire to serve those duties, a desire for children and to be a good wife through the descriptions we receive from Mrs....
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