Susan Glaspell’s play Trifles focuses on the plight of women in society during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Women were seen as housekeepers and not as significant as men in society at the time. In this way, they were helpless within a patriarchal system, making them vulnerable to all forms of coercion, whether physical or mental. Following this line of thinking, Trifles depicts Mr. Wright’s murder as a means of rebellion against the capitalist culture of the time. The play makes a point of prominently portraying a feminist theme, which is bolstered by the play’s portrayal and their positions within the described literary work. One of the principal characters, Mrs. Wright, plays as the prime suspect in her husbands murder. As revealed by the play, Mrs. Wright indeed killed her husband. However, her motive for doing so seems elusive to the chief investigators courtesy of her female counterparts who were also closely following the investigation. The first instance of the theme of feminism is seen when the women, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, quickly put together what had happened in the Wrights household. They discover Mrs. Wright pet canarys neck having been snapped thus concluding that Mrs. Wright might have retaliated and killed her husband for doing so. Them not sharing this motive to the chief investigators, who were apparently their spouses, show the element of femininity on their part. Moreover, it portrayed the essence of loyalty in that they would not betray one of their own. It certainly showed that the women in the society understood their plight and would not want their counterparts to suffer at the expense of a mans oppression. In this respect, therefore, such an action was an apparent symbol of womens revolution against a society primarily dominated by men.
Following this line of thought, the literary element of characterization becomes very important. Susan Glaspell made sure to reveal to the audience that it was the women who were able to solve the case better and quicker than the men. Furthermore, the play illustrated a shift of power from the males to the females in that, the women, represented by Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, had complete knowledge of the motive behind Mr. Wrights death. They then possessed the power to end the investigation, but they chose not to.
Feminism comes out in another instance in the play where a scene shows Mrs. Hale having utmost empathy to Mrs. Wright when the County Attorney, George Henderson unapologetically criticizes how Mrs. Wright keeps her household. In this scene, George washes his hands and grabs a towel to wipe them. He then exclaims, Dirty towels! as he kicks some of Mrs. Wrights Utensils, Not Much of a housekeeper, would you say ladies? This statement rubs Mrs. Hale off in the wrong way. She goes a step further to defend Mrs. Wright by explaining to the County Attorney that there is usually a lot to do on the farm. Moreover, she added that mens hands are often dirty. Mrs. Hale understood the plight of women especially in the farmhouse thus was compelled to come to Mrs. Wrights defense. As illustrated in the first point, this symbolized a sense of sympathy and unity amongst the women. In her commentary, Jury of Her Peers: The Importance of Trifles, Karen Alkalay-Gut explains through coming together, the women can get for themselves as well as others the support and sympathy that can help them withstand what they are going through as a marginalized group within the society. The fact that the women in the community still sympathized with the murderer, it showed that indeed the women were not comfortable where they were hence they wanted change. Therefore, this is another illustration that indeed the murder of Mr. Wright symbolized an act of womens rebellion against a male-dominated community.
Upon thorough analysis of the play, the theme of feminism and womens sympathy to one another are greatly complemented by the literary element of irony to strengthen the plot of the story. Trifles sharply illustrate a notable difference in the way both the male and the female minds work. It was seen first in the process of investigation done by both parties. In her article, Suzy Clarkson Holstein gives a better explanation the irony behind the inquiry of Mr. Wrights death. The male characters do a very systematic investigation where, the went room by room looking for valuable clues and asking Mrs. Wright, relevant questions to obtain significant facts. The sheriff and the County Attorney make sure nothing of importance was left out (Trifles, 8). However, despite all their knowledge, and superiority, they end up with nothing. On the other hand, Suzy explains the womens technique of investigation as being formless, but they managed to reconstruct Mrs. Wrights life in comparison with theirs thus enabling them to stumble upon the motive of the murder (Holstein 283). It portrayed one of the most important elements of irony whereby, their female counterparts beat the males who we expected to solve the case. As much as the men ridiculed the womens trivial concerns, the same concerns were the key to discover the motive behind the Murder. This discovery, therefore, enlightened the women that they were a significant part of the society. In this respect, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters understood Mrs. Wrights actions and where they were coming from thus chose not to reveal the truth to their husbands. A show of solidarity was displayed thus showing the womens consent of Mrs. Wrights Murder. Such consent, therefore, emphasizes the above thesis that the death of Mr. Wright is a direct act of revolt against a patriarchal society.
Susan Glaspells Trifles continues to be one of the most exciting yet controversial plays of its time. It is greatly attributed to the moral decisions characters have to make which stir debates on whether they were appropriate or not. Moreover, it illuminated the plight of women in the society which was a primary concern then. The theme of womens suffering, as well as feminism, connects to my thesis that, Mr. Wrights death was an act of revolt against a society dominated by men. This literary work can be interpreted so because; the plot of the story cleverly illustrates the unity behind women in the set community of the play. Mrs. Wright must have killed her husband because she was fed up with his actions and he killing her pet bird was probably the last straw. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters work not to inform their spouses of their discovery illustrated their consent of Mrs. Wrights actions thus portraying that they were sympathetic to her and they detested their life of belittlement by their male counterparts. Trifles garner its importance in the modern world through its skillful utilization of symbolism. These symbols enable the reader to relate to the characters and the story in general. The biggest symbol used in the story is Mrs. Wrights pet bird. Throughout time, women have been likened to birds in cages (Angel 550). Mr. Wright killing the bird showed how the voice of women was being subdued within the society. Therefore, it illustrates that the women need to join up and let their voice be heard in all communities.
Alkalay-Gut, Karen. “Jury of Her Peers: The Importance of Trifles.” Studies in Short Fiction, vol. 21, no. 1, Winter84, p. 1. EBSCOhost, login.aclibproxy.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=8648431&site=ehost-live.
Angel, Marina. Teaching Susan Glaspell’s A Jury of Her Peers and Trifles. Journal of Legal Education, vol. 53, no. 4, 2003, pp. 548563. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/42893823.
Holstein, Suzy Clarkson. Silent justice in a different key: Glaspells Trifles. The Midwest Quarterly, vol. 44, no. 3, 2003, p. 282+. Academic OneFile,