Trifles by Susan Glaspell


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According to the Merriam -Webster Online Dictionary an assumption is a belief that something is true or a fact or statement that is taken for granted. Susan Glaspell wrote "Trifles" to demonstrate the male assumption that women are insignificant members in a male dominated society. Because the men underestimate them, the women are able to prove they are not insignificant. The improper assumptions by men toward women can have dire consequences, as demonstrated in Glaspell's world. Combating these narcissistic assumptions displayed by men can result in a unity among women that can overcome any male caused disrespect and oppression.
The title of this drama "Trifles" demonstrates how men have the assumption that women and their respective actions are seemingly unimportant. Trifles can be used in two forms in the English language. In verb form, trifle means to treat someone or something as unimportant or non-essential. The word trifle in noun form means something of little value or importance. Both definitions of this word yield an idea in this story that women are seen as trivial and are not worthy of respect by men. This idea is conveyed throughout the entire story by the belittling assumptions and attitude the men use toward the women. For example Hale says, " Well, women are used to worrying over trifles" (1003). Typically, a kitchen represents women's work and the idea of domesticity. In Glaspell's eyes, men tend to assume that nothing of importance occurs in the kitchen and this can be related to the idea that women are insignificant. As Glaspell writes,
COUNTY ATTORNEY. I guess we'll go upstairs first – and then out to
the barn and around there. You're convinced that there was nothing
important here – nothing that would point to any motive?
SHERIFF. Nothing here but kitchen things.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. Here's a nice mess (1002).
This supports the idea that men see women and their respective actions as incompetent and trivial. Another way Glaspell demonstrates the assumption that men view women as insignificant is by conveying the men's attitude towards a woman's work.

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Glaspell says,
MRS. PETERS. Oh, her fruit; it did freeze. She worried about that when it turned
so cold. She said the fire'd go out and her jars would break.
SHERIFF. Well, you can beat the woman! Held for murder and worryin' about
her preserves.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. I guess before we're through she may have something
more serious than preserves to worry about (1003).
Firstly, the preserves represent a task that a woman does for the well being of the entire family and is a direct reflection of a woman's important role in the household during this time period. Secondly, Glaspell proves these indeed are important things that women are associated with because, these trivial things/actions contain the answer for the motive of the murder.
Glaspell continues her point in regard to assumptions by portraying a serious crime. This particular crime has an outcome that is two fold insofar that it leads to the eventual death of Mr. Wright, but it also leads to the freedom of Mrs. Wright. Prior to the marriage to Mr. Wright, she was known as Minnie Forster, and this woman contrasted drastically compared to the woman that married Mr. Wright. In the play Mrs. Hale says, "… She didn't even belong to the Ladies' Aid. I suppose she felt she couldn't do her part, and then you don't enjoy things when you feel shabby. I heard she used to wear pretty clothes when she was Minnie Foster, one of the town girls singing in the choir. But that – oh was thirty years ago" (1004). Further Glaspell tells use that the Wright's home seclusion of Mrs. Wright and Mr. Wright resembles a cold wind. The abuse portrayed in this story by Mr. Wright leads to the destruction of Minnie Foster and to the creation of Mrs. Wright – his property. The one thing that Mrs. Wright enjoys in her sorry and lonely married life is the canary. This canary is a sign of life for Mrs. Wright and was something that she could relate. When Mr. Wright kills this bird, it symbolically kills Mrs. Wright, giving her the motivation for retribution. Murder for her is an attempt at freedom from Mr. Wright. By killing her husband, Mrs. Wright proves that she is not insignificant individual.
At the resolution, Susan Glaspell exhibits that women are important and are not to be trifled with. By the end of the story, the women gain control of this circumstance and this negates the male assumption that women are not important. The protagonist, Mrs. Wright is tried by a jury of her peers and is found not guilty. As Glaspell writes,
COUNTY ATTORNEY. Well, Henry, at least we found out that she was not
going to quilt. She was going to – what is it you call it, ladies
MRS. HALE. We call it – knot it, Mr. Henderson (1009).
This selection from the story re-affirms that the women find Mrs. Wright not guilty. The statement at the end of the story, "knot it" demonstrates the women triumphing over the men and their assumptions. By creating this bond, the women help support the innocence of Mrs. Wright. An example of this of this bond is shown when the women discover the motive for Mrs. Wright to commit murder and they don't reveal it to the men. The motive is the dead bird that's neck is wrung. Regardless of her conviction, Mrs. Wright is free from the imposing will of Mr. Wright and he can no longer destroy and oppress her.
The men in this story take for granted the assumption that women are insignificant. In Glaspell's world, the women show that they are significant members of a male dominated society. The women in this story overcome the men by uniting together against male oppression. Through the story "Trifles" Glaspell is able to bring awareness to the unfortunate conditions women faced, and the sexual inequality they encountered.



Works Cited

"Assumption." Merriam Webster Online. 28 Oct. 2006 .

Glaspell, Susan. "Trifles." The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed.
Michael Meyers. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006. 1000-1009.


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