Domestic violence is a form of violence that occurs in family relationships and takes place in the home. Sexual, physical, psychological, and mental harassment are all types of domestic violence. Evidence shows that women are more likely than men to be victims of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse against women raises the risk of injury and disease and restricts women’s inclusion in societal socio-economic growth (Morgan and Chadwick). Susan Glaspell’s 1916 play Trifles depicts the subject of domestic abuse and its disastrous consequences on marriage (Glaspell 140). In the play Trifles, the troubled marriage of the Wrights results in Minnie strangling John, her husband.
The play opens when county attorney George Henderson and Sheriff Henry Peters visit the Wright home to investigate the murder of Jon Wright. Meanwhile, Minnie, John’s wife and prime suspect for the murder has been arrested. Lewis Hale, the Wrights neighbor and the witness for the prosecution is also present. The sheriff’s wife, Mrs. Peters and Hales wife, Mrs. Hale accompany the men to collect Minnie’s Personal belongings to bring to her in prison. The men in the house look vainly for signs of violence rage but only find the murder weapon. The women, on the other hand, are able to understand the motives that led Minnie to murder her husband. However, they hide the evidence from Minnie’s prosecution because they feel empathy for her (Glaspell).
The view of patriarchal society that relegates women to mere subjects of men is a limitation that encourages domestic violence (Morgan and Chadwick). A woman’s entry to marriage meant that she lost her former identity and become the subject of her husband (World Health Organization 4). The play portrays John as a dispassionate and joyless farmer. When John marries Minnie, he is quick to dictate the way Minnie should live in their home because he believes that way to be right. In contrast, Minnie feels her domestic sphere has become a form of prison and solitary confinement (Glaspell). For instance, John denies Minnie the money to buy a decent dress to wear to church and attend the women association. In her maiden days, Minnie liked to sing in the church choir. Therefore, John’s acts of control break her spirits, frustrates angers her. The frustrations anger later manifests in Minnie’s act of violence when she strangles her husband. It is important to note that Minnie kills her husband in the same way that he killed her bird, therefore cementing her motive as revenge.
Another factor that contributes to domestic violence is desire for revenge. The abusive actions of one partner can result in the abused partner to seek retribution (Schumann and Ross). In his quest to control his wife, John sets out to destroy anything that makes her happy. He kills the canary by breaking its neck. He understands that his wife had developed an attachment to the bird and that it made her happy. John’s disrespect and ignorance of her wife’s needs makes him oblivious to the fact that he might turn his wife into a monster. Minnie sets out to punish her husband in order to silence his victimizing voice. She is convinced that killing her husband is the only way that will give her solace and refugee she desperately needs in her life. The fact that Winnie strangles her husband just as he strangled her bird points to revenge as a motivation of her act of violence (Sandra and Bloom 62).
Psychological abuse contributes to domestic violence. It might take the form of intimidation, isolation and threats of harm. For instance, an intimate partner can use threatening behavior, constant supervision and control of the other partner’s social circles to instill fear (Doherty and Berglund). In Trifles, John restricts Minnie within the house, denying her a social life. Minnie is not allowed to use the telephone and her friends cannot visit because her home is not a cheerful place. She is not allowed to even attend social events such as women’s association. John goes further and kills Minnie’s canary to symbolize what he might do to her if he is disobeyed. According to John, the singing canary made a lot of noise whereas he preferred silence. John’s strict segregation hurts his wife emotionally and eventually turns her against him (Glaspell).
Societal attitudes towards violence is another factor that can contribute to domestic violence (Flood and Pease 127). Communities that show low levels of support for gender equality encourage the use of violence as a means of resolving domestic conflicts. For instance, research suggests that men that hold negative attitudes toward women are likely to engage in violent acts towards women (World Health Organization). Likewise, women form these communities are less likely to report violence because of fear of repeat victimization. In Trifles, Mrs. Wright, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are victims of a society that has relegated their roles to serve the dominant male. When Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are in Minnie’s kitchen, they are able interpret clues (the badly sewed quilt, a leftover piece of bread and a dead canary in a sewing box) that point Minnie was frustrated. The signs of frustration show that her husband had periodically abused Minnie. The women are able to tell Minnie killed her husband. However, they do not report their suspicions because they feel empathic towards Minnie. They point out that they also go through experience of overbearing men in their lives. Ironically, the men that seek evidence and motive for the murder are ignorant to the clues in the kitchen because their sexist attitudes look down upon women’s space.
The need to gain sole economic control over the other partner is a factor that contributes to domestic violence (Pollet). The aim is to make the victim financially reliant to the abuser by limiting their access to employment while controlling and withholding access to the domestic economic resources. In Trifles, John is a control freak that denies Minnie the enjoyment of their domestic resources. For instance, he is not willing to pay for the telephone service (Glaspell). There is no way that Minnie can talk to her friends unless they come to visit which is seldom. John refuses to buy Minnie a decent dress that she intends to wear to the women association gathering.
In conclusion, factors that contribute to domestic violence are societal attitudes or personal attitudes. The motivation for acts of domestic violence is to control the life of an intimate partner. The control spheres can be sexual, psychological, economic or emotional in nature. In the play Trifle, both men and women can be victims of domestic violence. Firstly, John subjects Minnie to repeated acts of domestic violence including intimidation, social and economic exclusion and psychological abuse. The abused Minnie respond by killing her husband.
Doherty, Deborah, and Dorothy Berglund. “Psychological Abuse: A Discussion Paper.” Public Health Agency of Canada. N.p., 2012. Web.
Flood, Michael, and Bob Pease. “Factors Influencing Attitudes to Violence Agaisnt Women.” Trauma, Violence and Abuse 10.2 (2009): 125–142. Print.
Glaspell, Susan. Trifles. Ed. David L. Pike and Ana M. Costa. 1st ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2011. Print.
Morgan, Anthony, and Hannah Chadwick. “Key Issues in Domestic Violence.” Australian Institute of Criminology. N.p., 2009. Web.
Pollet, Susan L. “Economic Abuse: The Unseen Side of Domestic Violence.” NYSBA. N.p., 2011. Web.
Sandra, L, and M.D Bloom. “Reflections on the Desire for Revenge.” Journal of Emotional Abuse 2.4 (2001): 61–69. Print.
Schumann, Karina, and Michael Ross. “The Benefits, Costs, and Paradox of Revenge.” Social and Personality Psychology Compass 4.12 (2010): n. pag. Web.
World Health Organization. Chaning Cultural and Social Norms That Upport Violence. N.p., 2009. Web.