Since the 1900’s, women have struggled with gender roles in society that leaned more in favor of men. Susan Glaspell’s play, Trifles, reflects on this struggle by blatantly separating the ideas, opinions and actions of the men and women in the play. As the title Trifles suggests, the men in the play view the two women’s concerns as unimportant and frivolous in comparison to the “real” work the men have to do. Glaspell’s characterization of the sheriff, Henry Peters, the attorney, George Henderson, and the neighboring farmer, Mr. Hale, portrays them as typical men of the time who decide to take charge because, as men, that is their duty and only they know what can be done and how to go about discovering the truth. They only take along Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters to collect some things for Mrs. Wright, never taking a moment to think that from a woman’s perspective, the answer to the murder could be found.
As a sheriff, Henry Peters likes to assume a position of control and get right down to business in order to give the illusion that he has that control. Right when everyone gets into the house, Mr. Peters begins “unbuttoning his overcoat and stepping away from the stove as if to mark the beginning of official business” (Glaspell 1396). This is Mr. Peters’s way of showing the others in the room that he knows how to get things done, how to get them done right, and that he has complete control of the situation. On the surface, this assumption of power seems like it would be the normal action of any sheriff or, given the time period, just any man. Glaspell has another reason for showing this side of Mr. Peters: her first attempt to characterize men as a whole, those who automatically take charge thinking they are the only ones capable of keeping things in line. Along with her characterization of Mr. Peters, she is able to show some irony through Mr. Peters’s next lines, “Oh-yesterday. When I had to send Frank to Morris Center for that man who went crazy-I want you to...
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